Monday, January 31, 2011

For the kidlets...

Well I finished the sun lion pattern by Cate Anevski onesie for my upcoming niece and a second one for her with 'girl' in various foreign languages. The girl one is an idea I initially did for my nephew Benjamin and one I particularly like and would like to sell in my Etsy embroidery shop (hoping to open it in about a month). Some parents really dislike people getting their kid's sex wrong (more so I think when the kid is a year old for the ones whose hair grows suuuper slowly) and somehow I like that it facilitates communication with people who you might not otherwise talk with. Plus you could take your families nationalities and just use those languages. I include Dutch on the ones for Benjamin and the new girl because our friend and 'sister' Tessa is Belgian (from the best part of Belgium, the Flemish part!).

I spent a bit of today embroidering a design I drew a few days
back. It's part of a trio of animal head designs, very stylized. My wireless was out so I couldn't easily scan in the design and make it larger and then printout, transfer, etc... So in typical fashion I just drew it freehand with the washable marker. Therefore it's not quite right (right side white tuft is a bit too low, eyes aren't quite identical) but it's still pretty cute. I can't wait to try the other animals (along with the fox I did a raccoon and an owl). They'll be good for a possible baby quilt, onesies, and patches (or patch pockets) for kids clothes.

We had two days of warm (mid to upper 40s) weather and now it's cold and rainy again. I was so hoping that it would stay sunny for my lemon tree but oh well. At this point I would just be happy if we didn't get another rash of snow. I am so sick of it. Not that we've had any huge blizzards but snow every week almost since the beginning of December is just not fun. Especially since the house my mum bought is at the top of a really really steep hill (one which scares me a bit even when bone dry). She has a four wheel drive Subaru, but I do not. Fingers crossed, in any case.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Frida as Herself

Well the figure of Frida in my piece is pretty much done (just a couple tiny details to do which will only take a couple minutes). I'm really pleased with how she's turned out. At first I thought I'd overdone it, made her clothes too crazy and clashing but it is not supposed to be a rendition of a photograph, after all. It is supposed to be more like a painting. Her paintings are colorful and bright and full full full.

So in those terms I think she's turned out beautifully. I struggled for a few days with how to do her skirt and was very pleased with myself for the idea that finally came. Doing the outline in heavy chain stitch (well, medium heavy really) relates the heft of the fabric and stands out well from the other clothes. The double herring bone works well for filling the space but still showing that the background is white. Finding good stitches for the colored parts proved harder than I'd expected.

It is nice to take my time with a piece instead of feverishly rushing through it as I do with cross-stitch and blackwork. Free embroidery (is this a clear term? since cross-stitch and blackwork are types of embroidery the classification seems necessary) is languid, soft, free wheeling across the fabric like kids doing cartwheels on summer evenings. It is the hippie sibling of the penned-in housewife that is cross-stitch and the upright, English Lady that is blackwork. I love them all, but there's more excitement working on blank fabric without a chart, without clear lines to follow. It is a balm to the soul.

I am happy today. It is very warm, mid to high 40s. I went out in a tank top and skirt and was still too hot in the sun. There are six blossoms sprouting out on my dwarf lemon tree and I can't wait to see them bloom. I made shepherd's pie with leftover chili last night and it turned out really well. I don't know of any American recipes for using leftovers, all the ones I know are English or Mexican or other foreign things (shepherd's pie, chilaquiles, bubble and squeak...). Americans just serve the same food again making a lot of people have an irrational dislike of leftovers (I've known people who refuse to eat leftovers). My brother is coming on Sunday and staying for about a week to help work on the house my mother just bought. I haven't seen him since early October and I've missed him a lot lately.

Here's to spring weather (love spring, hate summer), lemon tree blossoms, good food, and the expectation of good drink (once February starts I'm buying a bottle of single malt Scotch).

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Sunny Baby

Well, given that there are only three months left until the birth of my 10th niece/nephew I am an in full "make things for new niece..." mode. I finally got some plain white onesies in 0 - 3 and 3 - 6 month sizes.

I knew I wanted to do this pattern for the niece from the moment I saw it. It is by the talented Cate Anevski and you can find it on her website along with other free patterns. Now, given that I'm doing this on a onesie, stretc
hy knit fabric, I can't do the dotted line stitches. It works on some onesies better than others but these are particularly plush and springy so it's a no go.

It's turning out well so far though. There will be a total of four shades of yellow and orange in the sunburst parts and I didn't finish the face because I'd gotten to the end of that thread and don't want to do the knots for the dots until after I've washed it. So may as well do that last bit of the mouth then. I hate started new threads, especially when it's for some tiny piece and when I'll have to do another tiny piece later.

On the Frida front I got my favorite stitch book out the library for ideas on how to fill the skirt and some decorative stitches that I'll never have memorized. I really need to go ahead and dye the background but it's one of those tasks that make me feel lazy and procrastinating.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Some color for Friday

Progress on Frida trudges along. I took a break to knit a super adorable baby hat since I'm debating how much painting of Frida's background I'll need to do. I decided to definitely paint some background color on the background (which will be all birds and flowers and vines) so now what I need to decide is whether or not to paint on the skirt. The skirt will be black with a few stripes of color.

I think maybe I'll skip painting that though. I like the idea of leaving the background of her face and shawl and skirt white in contrast to a richly and lushly colored background. I almost regret completely filling most of her shirt but I really wanted those thin horizontal stripes to mimic traditional central American weaving. I need to re-check out some embroidery books so I can get instructions for all the pretty stitches and such for the skirt.

While I was deciding my next steps I took a break to do some knitting. I used this pattern from Knitty to make an absolutely adorable baby hat. I have nine going on ten nieces and nephews. My oldest brother has six children, my next brother has two (the second just born about a week ago), and my sister has one son and is due with a daughter at the end of April. My sister's boy is the only one I really know and who knows me. He is the sweetest toddler I've ever met and they're all moving down here to my city in a month or so (very exciting!). Only two out of the current nine kids are girls (both belonging to my oldest brother who lives in Missouri and who I may never see again, sadly) so it will be nice to have a niece that I get to see more.

I also have knitting orders from a friend which include a number of hats for her grandchildren so I've got bright kids colors and fun patterns on the brain.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Girly Progress

You know, if I had a store of miscellaneous awesome crap I would called it Girly Progress. I've never been seen as a very girly girl, and many strangers thought I was a boy for a big portion of my childhood. However, I've always been simultaneously a complete girly girl and a super tomboy. I think that's good, personally. I like both worlds.

Since I got sick though I have gradually lost almost all those boyish pleasures. It's all knitting, embroidery, baking, and Japanese dolls. No more climbing and hiking, no more cartwheels and tipsy swagger home. My first car was a 1988 Ford Ranger, completely beat-up and run down, but oh so perfect. Now I drive a 1992 (or closeby) Pontiac GrandAm. That is pretty much the ultimate metaphor for the changes that have overtaken me.

The best defense is to think wholeheartedly about everyone else in the world. I try to feed my mom at least once a week, pack up soups and such for her to take for lunch (she works twelve and fourteen hour days regularly). I knit and sew and bake for my nephew. I scrape whatever good news and glad tidings I can find in my life and make that the focus on my conversation with my dad and siblings.

And then I decide to undertake a large-scale embroidery project for my high school best friend with whom I haven't been in regular communication for about six years. I still love her so much, and I miss all those friends. All these people who suck at keeping in touch and peeled off rapidly when I got sick. I was the glue, the one who called and wrote and made the effort. Then I couldn't make the effort anymore and no one else picked up the slack.

Sometimes I am so angry about it, so deeply hurt, so stubbornly clinging to the fact that it's their responsibility to remember me even while I dream and pine for them. I am trying to get over it. I am trying to force myself back upon them but it feels so much like begging. Begging to be remembered, to be treated like a normal friend again and not some scary "There but for the grace of God go I..." example for everyone my age.

So here I am. Toiling over projects that I may never work up the courage to give away. It is a way to cope. It is generally healthy for me. Plus, it certainly yields some beautiful work.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Flowers Fronds and Frida

I've finally started on my Frida Kahlo embroidery piece. Got the main bit transferred and I'll just be filling in the background with birds and flowers and vines and such (no monkeys, I hate monkeys).

It's a bit nerve-wracking since I don't have a clear idea of how I'll be filling in the skirt and shawl. It's embroidery though, it's allowed to be loose and free and lovely. It is fairly large as well, larger than I had at first envisioned, but it probably needs to be about this size in order for the face not to look muddled.

Had a nice interlude with my mom today. We ate the soup I made when I was sick (and didn't eat then because my sense of taste was still wonky) and watched an episode of Bones (her fave rave show). Now that my appetite is mostly back I want something completely unhealthy to eat but easy to make.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Pastel, floral bastards...

I have finished my Still Game quote cross-stitch and it may be my most favorite piece so far! I love the colors, I love the borders, I love the font, and obviously I love the quote.

The only thing I'm not pleased with is the purple border above the quote. Initially it was just the lighter purple with the design left open. However, all the other borders use two colors and it started looking weird to me to have an odd one out. So I filled it in and it looks fine and all, I just think it looked better plain.

The first border below the quote turned out much lovelier than I first anticipated. I think it looks very old fashioned, like something my great-aunts would have done in the early 1940s. It is, however, one of those pain in the ass patterns. You can stitch it across without having to break and restart the thread at all, but you have to stitch in a very particular order and not lose concentration. Looks lovely though, doesn't it?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Bastardization of Tradition...

This is what I like most about cross-stitch - the combination of traditional borders/motifs and modern/snarky quotes. It's just so much fun. Plus, quotation pieces can be finished relatively quickly. From the moment I heard this line on the Scottish comedy Still Game I knew I wanted to stitch it.

I'm really pleased with the color combinations in this piece. There will be three different borders under the quote as well and I'm generally planning to use the same colors as in th
e top borders. The font is basically this half-uncial one with some alterations since I wanted more typical lowercase letters, I love how it turned out though.

I'm always amazed at how different something can look once it's stitched. The purple border ended up looking very argyle-ish, which I adore. I did learn something very vulnerable with this project though. Mainly that it is very difficult to stitch when your nose is leaking like a sieve. I have a bad cold/flu/thing that began with that super watery type of nose running where it just leaks out no matter what. I'm surprised I didn't get any on the project because I was still trying to stitch as much as possible. Now it's all about that typing of wracking cough that shakes your whole throat and some very questionably colored phlegm. Thank god for needlework, in any case.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Destruction and Sunlight

Today has been unusually productive. I took a shower, did some cleaning, put some stuff in the slow cooker, and did some more cleaning. That doesn't sound like much but for me it's enough to end up with extremely sore legs and it means that tomorrow will have to be much more restful. I have rewarded myself with a nice glass of whiskey (wheat whiskey to be precise, good stuff).

I also finished my Dalek. I think I'm finished anyway. My original pattern included a couple of extra "destroys" in gradually smaller sizes, but I think it's best with just the three lines. All in the all I think the actual Dalek turned out smashingly and is immediately recognizable. It was really difficult making the pattern, especially the circles because of the size and angle changing, so I was worried it wouldn't be recognizable at all. Luckily my critiques are often incorrect.

Also find posted: a picture of my Roman mosaic taken in actual sunlight, proving to all that I am NOT a vampire (you have to pronounce it wahm-pier).

Next I think I'll be working on a quotation piece with different borders above and below it in the fashion of a sampler (similar to my blackwork piece but all cross-stitch). The quote is from the Scottish TV show Still Game and goes as follows: "There's nay disease called 'Moody Bastarditis.' " Hilarious!

Realistically that piece may get put off. I feel a need to return to free embroidery for a while. There's a Frida Kahlo project that I've basically finished the pattern for, and a few other things I'd like to try, as well as experimenting to find the best transfer technique.

Here is a picture of my craft table, which is unusually clean. I don't stitch there though as I can't sit upright for all that long, but it's good for those quick crafts that you really have to sit up for. Plus look how pretty my decoupage job is!

Sometimes I forget that I really only like cream cheese in small amounts, isn't that silly? Also, I am craving some sort of food, but I can't put my finger on what kind. It's maddening.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

exterminate, eradicate, destroy!

So what am I up to after my triumphant finishing of the Roman mosaic (for which I shall no doubt soon receive my triumph and lictors)? I thought I'd get as far away from ancient Rome as possible (while simultaneously as close to as possible, if you follow me), and cross-stitch a lovely Dalek from Doctor Who.

Should be finished with him tomorrow, just have some more words to stitch. After running a million errands and thoroughly knackering myself I've been fairly lazy. Do you ever just randomly need to watch some old Simpsons? There are a number of seasons which I can confidently say I've seen almost none of since for many years I had no TV service or was at boarding school where the only TV I watched was Saturday morning WV PBS (all British hilarity).

I'm of an age that The Simpsons is one of those super comforting things. I love That Mitchell and Webb Look and Still Game and Waiting for God, all the lovely British stuff that typically makes me laugh more than the Simpsons does, but I didn't grow up watching it with my whole family. Of course, now I've realized that I laugh at the most random little half-jokes and visual things.

I've long suspected that I may be a bit of a goof, and I'm afraid this only confirms it. The fact that I still crack up at Rocky and Bullwinkle episodes which I know by heart was also a strong indicator.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Veni, vidi, vici...

Well, my friends, it is finished. My biggest cross-stitch piece to date, my baby, my pride and joy Roman mosaic. Not to brag, but I think it is bloody fantastic. The background didn't take as long as feared, which is really also true of the whole project. Before I started it seemed a daunting thing, perhaps in part because it is from a piece of art which I absolutely adore so I was fearful of not doing it justice.

The background is done in a mixture of five different shades and I tried to make it so some sections had more grey, some had more dark green, some had more teal, etc... I wish pictures did it justice because the background colors and the half-stitching contrasting with the full cross stitches just looks brilliant.

Finishing it really energiz
ed me too and I've gotten a good start on my newest project. I hope to open up a second Etsy shop in a few months which will be solely needlework and needlework patterns. This new project might be a pattern that I'll eventually sell, though I'm not sure there will be enough interest. I should have a WIP picture of it to post tomorrow. I've also finished a cross-stitch Tintin pattern, which when finished may go to my toddler nephew who loves Tintin.

Here in Charleston we had a few days of clear, dry weather before snow came again. It just seems to accumulate so quickly these days! One minute the sun is out and a few hours later I'm going to bed and notice that there's two inches of snow on the ground. I finally have a car again after about five years of rarely driving and of course that means it's going to snow all the time. Because I haven't driven regularly in so long, and because other drivers are all crazy, I haven't been leaping at the chance to drive on snow covered roads.

On the upside I have been extremely productive lately. Cross-stitch, washing dishes, loads of cleaning, etc... It's especially amazing as yesterday I received my last Christmas present - a Kindle! I grew up libraries and have always loved the feel and smell of books as much as the reading of them, so I was never lusting for a Kindle (or for their effect on book stores and libraries). However, I just can't hold the books anymore and a Kindle means I can read more since I don't have to solely rely on audio books. It will take getting used to, but I think it will be a good addition to my life. I feel quite grand when I'm reading on it.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Patterns for the New Year

Well, there's been great progress with my Roman mosaic. I've got over half of the background finished and only a tiny bit of the brown ground area at the bottom left to do. That's the trouble with not having a needlework frame yet - the bottom of anything is especially hard on my hands. After that I just have the white parts of the skull to do, which I've smartly saved for last so it doesn't get stained.

I was working on the mosaic while visiting with my nephew, Benjamin, kept pointing to the skull and saying "Daddy" while giggling. I love the toddler sense of humour. If you misunderstand whatever he's saying (I'm not good at understanding toddler-speak) and repeat back the wrong word he thinks it's hilaaarious.

Anyway, I thought I'd post some patterns. One I've stitched already and one I haven't (but it will be my next quick project). This first one was inspired by a Cake Wrecks post making fun of the way teenagers talk. This particular phrase struck me as hilarious so I stitched it. Only in the pattern I've corrected all the mistakes I made and done some other changes to make it generally more attractive.

The next is a Felix the Cat cross-stitch pattern. I haven't filled in all the black because that's so annoying and boring but I've filled it in around where you'll need to do a little white stitching to show that he has two legs and fingers and all. I think it will look nice when stitched, in any case, and hopefully there are some other stitchers out there who grew up watching (and adoring) Felix cartoons.

There's only really a specific group of Felix cartoons I really like though. I love the early early Felix and I love what I *think* is the beginning of the 'new' Felix cartoons they made in the 1950s. Those ones with Poindexter and VaVoom are, for many reasons, detestable to me. I can literally remember my face spreading into a huge grin when the Felix theme song came on after I stuck the Felix tape in the VCR. Cartoon theme songs still hold some unnatural power over me. I hear the first beats of Rescue Rangers or DuckTales or Count Duckula and magically become a happy, giggling eight year old with no problems.