Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Wonderful Wonderful Cat...

Why yes, I did begin work on my Felix the Cat pattern! I'm proud of this pattern. I loved Felix the Cat cartoons when I was a kid and I still quite enjoy it.

I charted this pattern ages ago but there have been so many things to work on. I am slightly OCD and needlework for me is a godsend. It is involved and perfectionistic and I can either be stitching or coming up with patterns or blathering about them on a blog. Three activities springing from one hobby, it's brilliant.

I thought I'd just take a break from Frida to work on Felix and then ran completely out of black thread. Having just come back from a long car trip (which really destroys me) with a sinus infection (or something quite like it) tagging along, I am knackered. Absolutely knackered. So driving way out to Michael's on a weekend when the area is packed with shoppers is not my idea of fun. I have to go out tomorrow though to pick up the mat for the Roman mosaic which I sold to a friend of mine. That's the last time I stitched something in an odd side, I'll tell you.

In any case, here is my progress on Felix. I suppose I could have gone in and done the white backstitching on the head and hands but my brain didn't realize that. Actually it took some hours to realize I could at least do the red tongue. Stephen Fry told me on his quizish panel game QI that if you block the left nostril your spatial and visual intelligence increases and if you block the right nostril your verbal abilities increase. So given that both nostrils and my entire sinus cavity feels as though someone filled it with caulk I will attribute my slow-mindedness to that.

Thank you Mr. Fry for the brilliant excuse, PS please ask David Mitchell to marry me as I'm quite lovely, enjoy history, and generally think everyone around me has been struck with madness.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Home again, home again...

Today was long. Well, okay, last week was long in general and today's eight hour drive was just the tipping point for my body to completely shut down. I have levels of shut down. Sometimes a good complete four or five hour rest followed by a long sleep is enough to get me back to subnormal, but that pre-supposes I'll get more rest the next day, which I don't get if I'm away from home.

The result is that by the end of the week I stop getting any relief from sleep. So the car
ride home tends to be punctuated by me taking breaks to start getting drunk bright and early or just generally groaning and being crabby. Or in the case of this drive, insisting on reading aloud from one of my favorite books to my mother for hours on end. One does what one can.

I finally did buckle down and start the vine border on my Frida Kahlo piece. As with most everything about that piece, I am loving the result! There will be three or four different types of vine, different shades of green and brown, but also one that's smooth, one with thorns, etc... I'm doing the smooth one first in deep green with highlights in kelly green satin thread which is producing a wonderful effect.

It was a really nice beach week, in any case. We had a couple super beautiful days with perfect weather, I got a few good pictures, found a four record set of Baroque music and La Traviata record set for fifty cents each (both look like they were never played), and added a pretty tea cup to my collection.

My replacement Wacom tablet pen arrived so I've gotten straight to work on smoothing out some of my embroidery patterns and have begun making the PDF files for the patterns that I'll sell in Hardcore StitchCorps when it opens on Etsy.

I may spend the next two days lying still and sleeping, but one thing I learned very quickly into my disability was that it's always worth it to push yourself farther than you should. Not that you should do it for weeks and months on end, but you should as often as you can. Mental health is more important than physical health, after all.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Rest and Needlework...

A day of needlework is not necessary a day of rest. Your hands cramp up, your eyes hurt and vision blurs, and no matter how relaxed you start out somehow you slowly become completely hunched over.

You know what's so cool though? Our regular seafood restaurant in Morehead City has all these needlework pieces hanging up, including a blackwork piece of their entire menu and a huge cross-stitch of the recipe for their clam chowder. It makes my stomach happy (like when you're just warm and excited and your stomach feels a little flippy).

I didn't get all that much done today. There was a lot of distracting TV, such as those Animal Cops shows which suck me in every time. I think every pet owner (esp. if the pet is primarily indoors) sometimes feels insecure about whether or not they are really providing the best life possible. Sometimes I feel like my disability makes me a poorer pet owner, but just watch a few Animal Cops episodes and suddenly you'll know you're a super great caregiver. It's refreshing.

Among my few achievements is the fact that I did a test-stitch of a cross-stitch bird motif and developed a blackwork feather design. I did my flower garland test yesterday (with a few mistakes) but decided it wasn't appropriate for the text piece I originally designed it for. Mixing blackwork and cross-stitch is always tricky for me. Oh little bits of cross-stitch, individual stitches mixed, that looks great, but blackwork text with cross-stitch borders... there's my problem.

My feather's finished design is a little different than the one shown. I would have stitched it again fully perfect but I was getting tired and there were big kitties on TV. I bet if I'd been rich and healthy I would have become one of those crazy people who keep wild cats as pets. There was a moment with a lion when I was seven or eight where I put my hand up on the glass and a lion came and put his paw up just opposite my hand. To a little girl who loved cats it was the most amazing moment ever, and it still seems quite amazing. Those animal hoarders must have smoked their sense of smell away is all I can say.

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Beach is Good for the Brain

You know how Guinness is good for you? Well you should. It is good for you. All stout is good for you.

Well what's good for me and especially for the brainstorming and idea part of me is a nice long car trip. I get great ideas, talk them over with my mom, we tweak them into exceptional ideas and I sometimes remember to write it all down.

On this trip I came up with the perfect name for my needlework shop will be open on Etsy very soon. This great shop shall be called... Hardcore StitchCorps! I am super happy with that name and have already registered it on Etsy.

Anyway, it's hard doing needlework at the beach. I'm so tired all the time and squinting at tiny holes makes me pass out (also there's cable TV which I haven't had for a few years). I'm mostly just dabbling with some new fabric (the craft store here has an AWESOME needlework section, way more stuff than my home store) and test driving new designs. I'll be here by myself all day tomorrow so hopefully I can get a little more work done.

Friday, February 18, 2011


Well I've packed up loads of embroidery supplies and am ready to head off. I've drawn the vine border on the Frida piece, which will be easy to work on in the car and not take so much concentration that I would stop being a good traveling companion. The vines will overlap each other, some with thorns, some with flowers, some in shiny satin thread, etc... all different shades of green and brown.

My poor cat is very distressed. She knows that when I start packing my leave in imminent and sadly I can't e
xplain to her that she gets to come with me. I do keep trying though. I've always been somewhat convinced that cats do understand you (they have that look) so now I'm somewhat convinced that she just likes to mess with me.

In any case. I might post update pictures of Frida and other projects next week, and I might not. I might be too busy drinking cocktails and munching on hushpuppies. In the meantime here are some pictures I took on our trip last year (same beach, it's a time share). That sea gull practically stalked me (no food or drink or anything, it just kept following me around. Creepariffic for those like me who dislike most birds.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Working the productivity...

I've been sitting around watching QI, working on the Celtic letter cross-stitch, and dreading trying to color Frida's background. I'm starting to think it would be safer just to do a thick border of vines around her.

Come to think of it, I could do a border of vines and flowers and then paint only up to that point so there was less risk of color seeping into the figure area. That seems like it could work, right? Right?! Seriously, the thought of damaging Frida, who turned out perfectly, is driving me to distraction. I wanted to work on her at the beach and I think I can work on the vine border and have that done by the end of the week.

The Celtic E is
looking very beautiful and almost seems worth the immense amount of work that's going into it. I'll be doing the next ones on even weave linen which would make for a much easier time. I'm also starting to get a good picture of the sampler I'd like to make for my sister and her growing family. I have a super pretty tree pattern that would look nice at the bottom and a ton of nice animal and plant motifs.

Sadly I will miss most of the blooms on my lemon tree as I'll be at the beach next week. On the plus side, I boug
ht this thick letter stickers that include some punctuation including brackets. I basically only bought it so I could wear the bracket as a moustache and it looks so awesome. I would wear this all the time.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


Sometimes there are odd, often made-up, words that strike you as the best thing ever. Puke-a-tronic (as spoken by Amy in Futurama) is one of mine. There are real words that do that too of course, like pettifoggery. Pettifoggery is one of those words that you never need to know the definition of to understand what it means. I enjoy words like that.

I woke up after having a nightmare about being in an electric wheelchair that wouldn't stop and just kept going faster and faster. I was in a Sam's Club type of store and yelling at the clerks who all just stared at me and ignored me. Then
when the batteries died I went and asked one clerk if he'd heard me and he just shrugged that he had but it hadn't seemed important. I was storming off to demand the firing of about seven clerks when I woke up.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Fancy Script and Fireworks

So many projects so little time! This week I've apparently decided to overwork myself, despite the need to rest up since next week is beach week. My mom and I go to a time share in Atlantic Beach North Carolina. This will be our fourth year there. It's a lovely area and my favorite thing is going to Beaufort, NC, where the Beaufort Grocery Company restaurant is. They have divine food. There are also some islands with some fat "wild" ponies. Someone left their ponies there in the 30s or some relatively recent time like that and they became a sort of wandering herd. Quite, quite fat ponies.

In any case, it's one of my favorite times. The time share has a nice indoor pool and is right on the ocean. We take chairs out to the beach and have drinks in the evening, even if it's quite chilly. We bum around and look at the scenery and eat she-crab soup and have a generally relaxed, lovely time. The beach is best in late winter or early spring when there are no tourists.

I've started working on two fancy Celtic letter pieces. A 'B' for my nephew Benjamin and an E for my soon-to-be-born niece. Oh. O
nly her full name doesn't start with 'E'. My brain is so full of holes anymore. Sigh. Well, hopefully I can stick it into my Etsy store and sell it. Speaking of, I'm hoping to open the store within a few works. I'm working on making nice, detailed pattern files and getting frames and mats and all.

The other piece I'
m working on has an electric border which will be filled with a single word quote from Futurama. It's random and silly but it struck me as quite humorous.

My first blossom on the lemon tree has popped open, finally! It smells very similar to honeysuckle, which is my favorite flower scent. My lemon tree is just sprouting growth every which way. What's interesting is that the blossoms are strictly on one side of the place (and all over that side). I'm still shocked there are so many blossoms and that they're so large.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

In Search of the Perfect Iris

Because dark purple irises are my favorites I've done the ones in this border that same color. It might have looked nicer in the same blue as the flowers above (keep it less distracting or something) but oh well.

My stitched version is full of imperfection because I tend to be too impatient to make a complete perfect chart before I start working. This is why I'm incapable of starting a line of text in the right, centered, orientation. I am both a perfectionist and unbelievably shoddy at prep work, which is a wholly frustrating combination.

I would be finished with the completed (and perfect) pattern but Photoshop is doing this obnoxious thing that it sometimes does. I'll open a file and it will only do the grabby-hand-moving-around tool. I'll shut the whole program, open it again, same thing. I have to restart the whole freaking computer to get it to revert back. Only I believe I already tried that this time. I would do it in GIMP which I prefer for making needlework patterns but I just can't find a straight line tool on there. There MUST be one and I've been using Photoshop and equivalents for over ten years, so it's not like I don't know where to look. Frustrating!

Apparently it's just one of those days. I needed some cream and things to make some Valentines treats for my mom but my car battery is dead (didn't leave the lights on or anything, so I'm assuming a door didn't quite shut but now I'm worried it's something worse, like aliens stealing my engine. Sigh. Can't figure it out until my mom can come over and can't jump it until there's an empty space in the parking lot next to mine. This is why I've always wanted one of those self-contained jumper unit things. I predicted this day long ago.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Poetry and Biscuits

I am a big poetry reader. I grew up on it, thrive on it, lived for it in high school, and even dabble with writing it. If I had to choose one favorite poet it would be Carl Sandburg. The man was a genius. He writes the most realistic and accessible poetry I've ever read. People who think they don't like poetry should read Sandburg. He writes of the every day in the way we like to think of it in our heads. Like when you imagine how you would draw something - your mind makes it so so beautiful but your hand just can't translate it to the page.

Sandburg also wrote some of the most wonderful children's stories ever recorded (The Rootabaga Stories) and wonderful biographies. The man was incredible and is such a hero of mine. One of his quotes that I especially love is "Poetry is the synthesis of hyacinths and biscuits." It is literally the first quotation I added to my file of "quotes I might embroider."

Should I babble on about embroidery and color choices and motifs and charts? Certainly not. I'll babble about that tomorrow (the piece is actually finished now but I want to take daylight photos). Instead I shall share with you some excerpts from what is perhaps my favorite Sandburg poem, Honey and Salt. It is found in the book of the same name, which is also my favorite Sandburg book ever.

When boy meets girl or girl meets boy--
what helps?

They all help: be cozy but not too cozy:
be shy, bashful, mysterious, yet only so-so:
then forget everything you ever heard about love
for it's a summer tan and a winter windburn
and it comes as weather comes and you can't change it:
it comes like your face came to you, like your legs came
and the way you walk, talk, hold your head and hands--
and nothing can be done about it--you wait and pray.

Is the key to love in passion, knowledge, affection?
All three--along with moonlight, roses, groceries,
givings and forgivings, gettings and forgettings,
keepsakes and room rent,
pearls of memory along with ham and eggs.

How long does love last?
As long as glass bubbles handled with care
or two hot-house orchids in a blizzard
or one solid immovable steel anvil
tempered in sure inexorable welding--
or again love might last as
six snowflakes, six hexagonal snowflakes,
six floating hexagonal flakes of snow

Bidden or unbidden? how comes love?
Both bidden and unbidden, a sneak and a shadow,
a dawn in a doorway throwing a dazzle
or a sash of light in a blue fog,
a slow blinking of two red lanterns in river mist

I'll post the full poem in the comments. I don't want to overwhelm you. It is worth reading. I meant to read it at my sister's wedding but I was crying too much (which surprised me greatly, I adore my sister and brother-in-law but I'm not the "crying at weddings" sort).

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Rice Pudding and the Art of Comfort

I finished this newest blackwork piece amid swirls of snow that accumulated far more than I'd been expecting. I think it must have suddenly gotten much colder outside, as it had been snowing on and off most of the day with no real accumulation even on cars. When I looked out in the evening all of a sudden there was two or three inches on the road.

I really like how this piece came out. I managed to remember to center the text before finishing to the whole piece and decided to just do the borders all the same length regardless of whether or not they would end on a partial repeat. This was the best idea, I think. It makes it much more pleasing to me, certainly. Granted, I wish that with the larger repeat of the last border that I'd counted and just indented by one, which wouldn't be enough to make it look odd. I think my graduating purples looks good as well (you can't tell, but the top border is lavender). All glory to the rice pudding! And all glory to Doctor Who for always providing good quotes.

On snowy, bad feeling days all I want is rice pudding. Or bread pudding. Or my mother's chicken curry. Let's stick to rice pudding though, since that's what led me to write down and then stitch this particular quote. The line is extremely close to my general personality. If I were ruling a country or the world the thing I would revel most in would not be the power (that comes second) but the ability to have all the good food I want. I could go on about the various types of difficult to make (pastries) and difficult to find (unpasteurized milk) food I would have, but I think this anecdote will make things clear. When I first began working full time after high school I spent almost all of my money (after rent, which was very minimal) on food. Being able to buy the pricey natural chips I love best or expensive ice cream or tubs of brie was just amazing.

Today though, as I am waiting for the snow to melt and my lemon tree to bloom, I think I will make rice pudding (Indian style, cold and milky with almonds and golden raisins), watch some funny British people, and just curl up for a bit.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

A bit of a break...

Please excuse my absence. There's been a plethora of stress and activity lately as my mother just bought a house which needs a bit of fixing up. I can't really help much in terms of house work but I've been keeping her company and doing what little I can in terms of fetching things and holding tools for short periods. My brother came down for a week to help out and then my sister and her family were here over the weekend. My nephew Benjamin and I had a lovely time playing in a couple of a large boxes and I received many kisses from him.

On top of that I've been working on a large knitting order. I suppose I could count knitting on this blog as well given that technically it is needlework; however, I think there's a bigger cross-over between people who do different embroidery types than between needleworkers and knitters.

Things are set up for the dying of the Frida piece though it will take a few days for the drying and adding of more color and drying and rinsing etc... to all be carried out. I've also got another blackwork project charted out and ready for the stitching to begin. I'm doing a quote from Doctor Who (during the years of the 7th Doctor, who was the next to last doctor of the first run of Doctor Who): "Conquer the galaxy, incredibly power, unlimited rice pudding, etc... etc... e
tc..." While I've only watched some Peter Davison episodes of the first run this quote greatly appealed to me on the basis that I adore rice pudding.

It will be set up like this:
Conquer the galaxy,
Incredibly power,
Unlimited rice pudding,
Etc... etc... etc...

Starting with a decorative border above the first line and different borders continuing to alternate with each line of text. I'm stitching it on black Aida with the text probably in green and the borders in different shades of red and purple. Though since I don't want it looking at all Christmas-y I might do the text in blue or a nice blue green. Oh, or I suppose I could do it in white (which I had sort of forgotten). Well, it bears thinking about. White thread would certainly make color clashes far less likely and easier to deal with. Or perhaps a light grey to keep it from being too bright.

Included here is a picture of my dwarf meyer lemon tree. It is covered with buds, the first of which should be popping any day now! This is the first blossoming and I'm very exciting. It won't lead to fruit yet, the tree is too young, but it should at least be gorgeous.