The Last Thing

Posted: June 18, 2017 by suegrain in Stuff

Here it is, folks. The last baby quilt is done. It needs a wash, the backing and trim put onto it, but the stitching is finally done. I needed a little extra encouragement to get the last 1/4 of it finished, but I did it. Β (Please God, ignore the dirty walls in the picture. I don’t even know how it got splattered or what it is. Just haven’t gotten around to cleaning it off, yet. :P)

Anyway, the finish for this is quite bittersweet. Β I’m relieved to have it done yet that relief is tinged with sadness that Bev isn’t here to have done it herself nor to see it done. At this time, I’m also going through my own peri-menopausal roller-coaster. I’ve had some signs for a year, but nothing that got in the way of my day-to-day. Then along comes May and now I’m gritting my teeth, biting my tongue and just trying to get through this transition, too. Make no mistake, accepting and dealing with the death of my best friend is also a huge transition and one that rather surprised me.

I’ve lost family members and friends before this. I grieved and cried, but I’ve never had any lingering sadness or active thoughts of missing them. I was able to move on pretty quickly and simply counted myself as practical enough to know that they’ll still live on in my heart and memories and it was all good.

This has been different. I was with her when she died, I helped guide her to the threshhold as any good cleric and healer would and saw her over it. I knew she was where she needed to be and yet… this heaviness still clings. This is the first time I’ve had to learn how to actually carry grief. This is not going to go away any time soon and “getting over it,” may actually never happen.

I needed to remind myself time and time again that just because this is the last favor I could do for her, it won’t sever our connection, nor will it end my grief. Having to remind myself often and sternly is why the last 1/4 took so long. I thank all my lucky stars for having a friend like Alesia I could talk to that could stand back a little and help me with a more objective (and sometimes a little more stern when I needed it) perspective. She reminded me of my lasting connection when I couldn’t remind myself.

Bev will always be a part of my life and the grief of her passing will remain and I’m learning how to carry that grief so it won’t weigh me down unduly. It’s a process and a process that is different for everyone.

I thank you all for your support, understanding, words and memes of encouragement. They have all helped a lot

P.S. – Some of you may see this more than once since FB is kinda messed up about cross-posting and the fact that Alesia has things set up to automatically share posts to her FB timeline. πŸ˜‰

Rowan Stitch Complete

Some Late Progress Pics

Posted: May 13, 2017 by zenstitcher in Progress Pics
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I haven’t done much here with progress pics — Sue and I share this space, and writing endless little posts about the bits of progress we make on a daily basis never appealed to either of us. Lately, I’ve been sharing individual WiP pix on Instagram, but this week I found myself with a bundle to share. 

First up: Celtic Yule (nee Christmas). This is on white monaco, which is a 28 ct cotton fabric. I’m stitchin over two threads, with two strands of DMC cotton flosses for cross and quarter stitches, and one strand for backstitching. I’ve been working from left to right on the top half of this one and have the poinsettia’s cross stitches nearly done. Next time it goes up on the stand, I’ll be doing a lot of backstitching.

Design by Vickery Collections. Stitching by Alesia Matson

I have said it many times: I love the palette of colors Mike Vickery uses. It’s distinctive to my eye now, after completing two of his designs previously (I see I’ve got neither of them available here — I hope to fix that soon). After this one, I’ll very likely buy another to dream over for a bit — they’re addictive.

Next up: Caffiene Fix. Sorry for the blurry corner there. Linen is hard to stitch on, too. This 28 ct Irish linen, again stitched over two, DMC floss, two strands for cross stitches, one for back stitches. Originally, I liked the “illustrated” look of this, and I still do — but I’m finding the back stitching in this one tiresome, I have to admit.

Design by Rhona Norrie. Stitching by Alesia Matson

I only work on this one during elder care times. It’s one of the few things my mother in-law actually, visibly, and verbally likes every time she sees it — and it’s new to her every time, too. As much as I disliked her personally when she was still sane, she was one of the few people I knew personally who understood the effort it took to stitch something by hand, and always appreciated it when I gifted her with something I’d stitched. So, we have that, at least.

Next up: Trust the Grind, my homage piece to the San Francisco Giants. This one is my design,and I’m stitching in on “antique” 28 ct monaco, over two. DMC, two strands for x’s, one for |’s. I’ve just got the one last banner to do on the center bottom section. The top center will feature the iconic SF logo. In columns down either side I’ll be stitching the team’s retired numbers, some favorite short, pithy sayings, and something else that hasn’t quite made itself known to me, yet. πŸ™‚ 

My dream is to get this finished and framed in time to take it down to the Stitch & Pitch at AT&T Park on July 18th of this year, and find a way to get it to the team, somehow. The obstacles to seeing this one come true are many, but for now it’s just a matter of getting through the stitching. I almost feel like I cursed the guys by designing and stitching this for them this year, which has been awfully grindy already — culminating in that 17 inning marathon last night, that they won with Buster Posey’s walk-off homer. It’s super hard to trust that grind when you’re in the middle of it, but it’s really the only way to get through it. 

Last up is the family tradition stuff. I’m getting started on the “Contortionist Santa” ornaments early this year, since I’ve got to do four J’s and one K, and the best times to squeeze these in is when the baby dragon is down for her nap. The baby dragon is my great granddaughter. My elder son is joining his life with a woman who’s got three kids of her own, and a baby granddaughter. That’s how I got a great-granddaughter before I really had much practice being a grandmother. 

I offered to difference the J’s by color. 

They all like pink best. facepalms I made my peace with pink a few years back, but really….

DMC 956, I think

These are done on 14 ct aida. I used to do them on Rib-bands, but I’ve got some better ideas on how to finish ornaments now. They stitch up quickly, which is good, because that little girl doesn’t always sleep for long, when she goes down.

If you’re wondering if I have a thing for contortionism after a certain snarky farewell to 2016 I did, well, I probably do. πŸ™‚

The last project I’ve got going is a Maleficent-inspired design I picked up on Etsy, but I’ve made a mistake in counts and have some frogging to do before I get a pic of it. 

Thanks for reading along!

A DIY Tea Chest [photos]

Posted: April 20, 2017 by zenstitcher in Finished Stitches
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If you’re like me, you’ve been keeping things back over the years because you just know they’re going to come in handy some day. These silly little plastic cassette tape boxes have narrowly avoided the recycling bin here because I discovered that they make terribly cute little keepsake boxes, and they provided yet another outlet for my stitchy projects. This one ended up rather nicely for a first run!

For holding a cup’s worth of loose leaf tea, or possibly two.

As some of you know, my husband Michael and I are fantasy fiction writers, and before that, we were fantasy/sci-fi role playing gamers. Both of these pursuits only encourage idle research into such topics as, oh, say the right poison for blow darts (curare works), or the construction of aqueducts, or where the Hittites came from, or, lately, the cultivation and production of loose leaf tea. I’ve had my flirtation with those delicious, fragrant bundles of heaven in a cup already, but this time it was his turn — and he backed up his research with his money, and has been keeping us in couple of delightful blends, when we can afford it. Since he’s gone back to work, he’s begun taking a fancy thermos-style go-cup with him full of tea (that stays HOT all day, I’m envious of this particular bit of tech), and on the trips where he has to spend the night, well… I decided he needed a tea chest, and he loves my stitching enough not to argue with me. 

I started with one of these plastic cassette tape boxes, and covered the bottom and sides with some washi tape. 

Choosing the design for the stitchy was easy — Michael is/was a third generation commercial fisherman, and there literally is salt water in his veins, I swear. He loves all things nautical, and I’d caught these nautical card charts on cross-stitching.com (I think) awhile back, and on 16 count aida, it was a perfect fit. I trimmed it to size, then frayed the edges. I ran a coat of Fray-Check around the edges in an attempt to keep them from fraying any further.

 

I got into my craft felt box and pulled out a scrap of white and trimmed it for backing: 1.75″ x 3.75″.

And because I am not worried about archiving or conservation, I used Mod Podge for fabric to fasten the felt to the back of the stitchy. I fully expect to have to replace this at some point, because it’s a travel accessory and in this house, we use those hard.

Here’s a nicer shot of the washi tape covering on the sides and bottom. I took some pains to match up the design. It’s not perfect, but it’s close!

And here’s a shot of the turquoise felt I secured to the box with double sticky-sided tape, and more of the same on the white felt backing. You know what’s coming next, right? 

Now: If the double sticky-sided tape doesn’t hold up well under wear and tear (I’m dubious), I’ll correct that with another slathering of Mod Podge. So here it is, an upcycled plastic cassette tape box, DIY cross stitch tea chest. πŸ™‚  So there you have it — what do you think?

The Last Thing

Posted: February 20, 2017 by suegrain in Besties, Progress Pics
Tags:

rowans-quilt-progress

I remembered that while I posted this on a FB group, I hadn’t said anything about it here. This crib cover has been in the works for oh, about six or seven months now, I think. I don’t normally do them because I don’t really know a lot of folks having babies, or rather know them well enough (my daughter’s friends I’ve only met once, for instance).

However, this one plus three others came to me via my heart-sister whom I knew for 35 years. She died in January of 2016, but she had two of these in the works, plus plans for two more. One for her grandson, her grandniece, one for an extended family member and one for her daughter’s own heart-sister. When I went to see her the last time, I told her of course I’d get them done.

Work was already started on the first two, so cranking those out was a relatively short piece of work and a bittersweet joy. Her sister-in-law finished them and also said she’d take the one intended for her granddaughter off my hands, so that left me with this one. I took a break before starting this one and actually got a lot accomplished before her private memorial service in September.

Therein is where I stalled. After that weekend, I just couldn’t bear to pick it up again because it hit me: This was the last thing I would ever do for her. The last favor, the last gesture of our deep bond. It’s certainly not the last connection but it felt like it for a while.

I finally picked this up again at the end of January and have been plunking away at it, slowly. The actions of attending her public memorial service at the beginning of that month helped close the circle enough. Fortunately my god-daughter and her friend are understanding and are in no rush for it, even if the baby will be turning two this year. πŸ™‚ I hope to have it to them before then.

Grief is definitely an individual’s providence and we all go through it in different ways and deal with it differently. I’m rather glad I had these crib covers to do in the aftermath of her death. What will happen once I get it done and sent? We will see.

The Book of Ink Circles: Stitching Complete

Posted: February 19, 2017 by zenstitcher in Finished Stitches
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This was, to quote uncle Joe Biden, a “big fucking deal”

So this blog post is a big, fat, long ramble about what it means to stitch something like this, a project that stretches over an inordinate arc of time in your life. It’s been a long-term relationship between me and this project, and it featured everything any other relationship does — the euphoric “new relationship” energy that carried me through the first four blocks, the stumbles, mistakes, recapitulations, angry break ups, resigned reconciliations, long periods of time not speaking to each other, grinding it out one stitch, one row, one block at a time… and then, when the end was in sight, a renewed dedication and sense of purpose that carried me right through to figuring out how to get my initials into the last block.

And now we are where we are. But this started a very long time ago, especially in internet years.

I don’t have a tl;dr summation for you. If you don’t like reading long, picture-rich blog posts, back out now. No hard feelings. πŸ™‚

The Background, BAPs, and the Long Arc of Time

I started Tracy Horner’s fabulously generous, free Stich A-Long (SAL) in late 2009, according to photo evidence. The official SAL on the Yahoo Group had concluded, but lots of stitchers were still working away on those last blocks and posting their results in the first stitchers’ group I ever joined, on LiveJournal, back before the Russians bought it out. The one I remember seeing the most was Christine Forber’s, and I credit her exemplary work on her own BoINK for enticing me into starting mine — and her continuing encouragement for me actually finishing it.

Design by Ink Circles. Color selection and stitching by me.

Earliest surviving photo, August 2009

This is a BAP – a Big-Assed, and also Bad Ass, Project. I was still menstruating when I started this. Libby, the kitty whose likeness you see featured on all four corners, wasn’t much more than an adorable bundle of kitten fur. We still had wood heat then — a fact I got reminded about when I put this project in to soak, last night, and all the particulate ash began to rise to the surface of the water — and I had no chronic aches or pains in my hip, no nascent arthritis in my fingers and thumbs. I could still see the holes in this fabric without the need for magnifiers! 

In 2009, Barack Obama, a black man, took the highest office in this land. I had so much hope for a real progressive agenda, then. I don’t think I’d completed the first four blocks before that hope had been completely thrashed. 

I officially stopped bleeding every month in 2012, and I also swore off diets forever. 

This block was one of THE most difficult to stitch. I ended up frogging it several times, and once I snipped a fabric thread. And nearly lost my fucking mind — but then I figured out how to fix it, thankfully.

I claimed my cronedom in 2013, and a method for weight loss and weight management came to my notice that has since become a lifestyle, and at last, in my 50’s,  I’m no longer in danger of ever-ballooning weight gain sending me to an early grave.
There were entire years where I didn’t touch this project. In fact, I put Glastonbury Cross on another set of scroll bars and finished it while this piece was a WiP in danger of becoming a full-on UFO. It kept calling me back, though, and when Sue and I made our stitchy retreats a thing, my BoINK became my favorite “pack it up and take it with you” project, floor stand and all. I rejuvenated my love for this project during those trips (even in 2014, when the floor stand broke right in the middle and I couldn’t even finish one block).

Since I’m talking about 2014, this was taken in March of that year.

This is how far I got during a stitchy retreat in 2014 before I broke my floor stand. 😦 Michael fixed it as soon as I got home, but man, that was frustrating.

The SF Giants won three World Series  championships while I worked on this — though I confess that I only followed them casually through the first two, in 2010 and 2012. Sue and I were on retreat during that 2014 run to the National League pennant. I worked on that block in the bottom left corner while we listened on radio and I nearly DIED in screaming ecstasy when Ishi (Travis Ishikawa) had his “Bobby Thompson” moment and hit the  walk-off home run that clinched the pennant and sent us to the World Series.

That’s such a happy, happy memory. Sue bleeds Mariners blue during the regular season, but she was right at my side rooting for the G’s, that week. I love her for all the reasons, of course, but that one is among my all-time favorites.

See, this is the thing about these BAPs as stitchy projects. They become part of your life — in a way, they do help you document your life, if you have a memory that’s less shitty than mine, at least. πŸ™‚  I had just put down the sparkly green border across the bottom, for instance, counted and recounted a dozen times to make sure I had the right number of stitches — then almost lost it all when I totalled my Mercury Mountaineer in an auto accident on the way home from that last stitchy retreat in 2015, with this project and the floor stand packed in the back. I wasn’t badly hurt, but I was badly rattled. When I finally felt recovered enough to check on my stuff, I shook shattered auto glass out of it when I unrolled it.

Michael and I rewrote and published our first book in 2014, and the second in 2015. That’s also the year we nearly bankrupted ourselves trying to make it as writers.The third book in that trilogy is still in limbo, at this time, because we need to eat and pay bills like everyone else does.

That moment when you KNOW you counted it right.

And so, here we are. I finished it in 2017 with “a hip”– I actually stitched the last two blocks standing up —  and irregular, shooting pains in some of my knuckles. I have to have readers on even without my contacts in to see anything this fine. Libby is a loving, grown-up kitty who is the best cat companion ever — she LURVES my floor stand — and both of her dogs are now senior dogs. The floor stand itself is still in development and is on version 1.5. I’m promised version 2 at some point. I hope it’s this year, too.

That’s eight years of living and loving, of joy and laughter and fighting despair so profound I nearly checked out of this life twice before I got it done. I almost left Michael (my husband, and designer/builder of my floor stand), but I didn’t, and I’ve fallen in love with him over and over since we reclaimed writing fantasy fiction together. It may not sell worth a damn, but it makes us happy. In the end, like with the stitching, that’s what it takes to get through this life — sticking with the people and things that feed you, rather than drain you.

The Balls and Bones of a BoINK

The Book of Ink Circles requires you to choose specific floss colors from broad categories to personalize your project. Tracy provides symbols for “Green” and “Yellow” and “Red” &c, but you choose the specific shades of each one. I wanted the look of the Book of Kells with its antique vellum and bright, saturated jewel tones. I even picked out some of DMC’s brand new Light Effects metallics line for the “structural” bits of my BoINK — the green border and knots, the gold frames, and the small red blocks that fill in around the two “bird blocks”. And, though I recognized the original corner cats as true Celtic motifs… =heh=  Straight up, my first reaction when I saw them was “why are those cats puking?” Someone else had already given them the affectionate nickname of “Barfy” (though I’m not sure Tracy appreciated it at the time!) and someone else had provided a template for a version of corner cats you could further personalize to represent your own cat.

I’d only just gotten bonded to Libby at that point, and I was hooked. Here, at last, is the result:

Freshly pressed and out of the soak, February 2017

Let’s see if I can remember the DMC color numbers.

  • Yellow/Gold: 783, plus DMC LE 
  • Green: 700, plus DMC LE 699 for the borders and knots
  • Red: 498, plus DMC LE 498 for the small red center blocks
  • Orange: 3823, was brand new then, too
  • Light blue: 800
  • Dark blue: 820
  • Violet: 552
  • Black: 310

Libby is 318 and 3772 and 414 (I think)… and Ecru? 

I chose 32 count “natural” lugana for the project and ordered that from Zweigart. What I got was 36 count, which I didn’t quite realize until I was a handful blocks in, already. Anyway, I tea-dyed the fabric before I started, to give it a more antique’d, vellum/parchment look. It is stitched “over two” threads with two strands of DMC floss. For the border, knots, and gold frames, I used one strand of cotton floss and one strand of metallic.

Get a load of all that green and gold glitter.

And I’d bet that three whole tiny blue boxes of Thread Heaven went into this, too. F’n Light Effects. NEVER. AGAIN. Use Kreink or Rainbow Gallery or ANYthing other than DMC LE. Unholy mother of an insane god, but they are wretched to work with. One of my stitchy-kin calls all metallic threads “Satan’s ass hairs” — but I’ll be going with Kreinik fine braid in future. 
There are 20 separate blocks.Six of them have gold frames. The total number of stitches in this piece is 24,000. The design area measures 10 3/4″ by 14 1/4″.

This Isn’t the End

Even after all that, it’s just the end of this phase of the project. In its final form, this is going to be a quilted wall hanging for our upstairs office. My next goal will be to get the final design blocked out, and then some guesses as to measurements (with a plenty-big fudge factor) so I can buy fabric and batting. 

Pattern templates.  

A prototype on muslin because I’m not stupid and this is not my first goat rodeo.

Which means I have to learn how to run a sewing machine, for realz. 

As you can see, getting the stitching finished wasn’t even half of it… 

So wish us luck. πŸ™‚

WiP: The Book of Ink Circles, Almost Done

Posted: February 5, 2017 by zenstitcher in Progress Pics
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I finished a block today.

Design by Tracy Horner of Ink Circles. Stitching by me.

This is the penultimate block. And it is finished.

Look at how nicely the sparklies show up in the green and gold borders.

Design by Tracy Horner of Ink Circles. Stitching by me.

I started this in 2009, as I’ve said before. Looks real good for a completion early in 2017. 

Who wants to see a pic of the back? 

Vive la Resistance!

Posted: January 25, 2017 by zenstitcher in Finished Stitches, Subversive
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My “zen break” today included finishing this.

The design is mine, and there were mistakes in the chart that I had to fix on the fly, but overall, I’m happy with how this came out. It’s stiched on 32 count cotton evenweave, with two strands of DMC cotton floss stitched over two threads. 

After it comes out of the soak, it’s going to become the cover for my little bluetooth keyboard. I’ll be wresting our sewing machine into submission (it hates me) (and that’s mutual) to stitch some kind of material around the border, and finishing it with some elastic, I think, to provide a little “grip” around the edges.

Shit. “Rebellion” is abotu two stitches higher than “place is.”  Grrr…. Not fixing it now.

A Chatelaine’s Collar

Posted: January 9, 2017 by zenstitcher in Finished Stitches, Stuff
Tags: , ,

As some of you may know, aΒ chatelaine is “a decorative belt hook or clasp worn at the waist with a series of chains suspended from it”. Click on any of those links to learn more — in eras when women didn’t have pockets, this was one way for them to keep necessary items close at hand during the long waking hours.

As stitchers, those who still practice an art with roots back in antiquity, we can relate to those particular needs. As the endlessly entertaining obsessions with needle minders and scissor fobs roll through my online communities, I have to remind myself that these things remain popular because, when you’ve got your hands full of hoop, fabric, needle, and floss, the last thing you want to do is take off across the room to retrieve the damned snips you left over on the bookcase.

With that in mind, I wanted to share a photo of a precious, precious gift I received years ago, from the woman who taught me how to cross stitch:

Sampler Chatelaine's Collar

Stitched for me by Janice Chamness

My last name at that time was also “Chamness.” Β πŸ™‚ Β I put this away years ago in an attempt to preserve it, though I still use those fancy Gingher snips and that brass needle case, every time I stitch.

That’s a linen band. The alphabet is the old one without a J or a U, like the Country English Posture Alphabet of 1782. And every one of those stitches is f’nΒ perfect.

Janice was a model stitcher when we met, and her work was displayed all over southern Ohio and southeastern Indiana — maybe as far as Illinois because I remember that’s where her mother was from. And when I was pregnant with her first grandchild and asked her if she could stitch the birth record she said (and I hope I remember this to my dying day), “No, but you could.” Β Then proceeded to teach me how.

That was just over 33 years ago now. She made the chatelaine’s collar for me in 1989, when it was clear she had me hooked. πŸ˜€

I’ve got it out again to wash in Orvus, then wrap in acid free paper before I put it away. But it was nice to handle it again, and think loving thoughts for that wonderful woman who introduced me to this craft. Love you, Janice!!

A Woman’s Place

Posted: January 3, 2017 by zenstitcher in Chart, Subversive
Tags: , , ,

Okay, so I did a thing. I owe the idea and the font for this from one Nicole Iaquinto, of my subversive stitchy-sisters on Facebook. The rest I pretty much worked out on my own using skull sweat and StitchFiddle.com.

BIG IMPORTANT UPDATE: This is where the original idea for this project originated: https://www.etsy.com/listing/487007120/a-womans-place-is-in-the-rebellion-pdf  The stitcher-artists’ name is Jenna Palmieri. I’m so sorry I couldn’t find this info before I did the post, but I’m super-happy to include it now. πŸ™‚

In honor of Carrie Fisher, who is and always Princess Leia and General Organa. And dedicated to all those Princess Generals who are in our lives, every day. ❀

Creative Commons Copyright 2017 -- please credit Alesia Matson and Grimalkin Crossing with the find.

My gift to the fabulous community of cross stitchers for 2017

Clicking on the image should take you to the media page and the full-size PNG.

I also made a PDF available, hopefully, by clicking this link.

It is not awesome, and I apologize for that. I’ll be replacing it with a better version when I get some software that will run on my Ubuntu 14.04 setup.

I have left room for a little customization at the bottom on either side. Light sabers would hella cool, for instance. πŸ™‚

I’ll be stitching up the first model for it here shortly. If you beat me to finishing a version, let me know?

My Fond Farewell to 2016Β 

Posted: January 1, 2017 by zenstitcher in Finished Stitches, Subversive
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…or something.

This is how I felt about it.

Yeah yeah, good things happened, too. Blow me. We ran out of nasty adjectives for 2016 in September and have been making them up in sheer improvisational rage ever since. I make a practice out of not wishing my life away, and even I’M glad to see that calendar roll over, at long last.

My subversive tribute to 2016 was stitched using The Country English Posture Alphabet of 1782 — holy mother of whatever, click that link if you haven’t read up on this find yet — which, of course, had subvert me please written all over it. I mean that almost literally, because on the little rhymes that were originally published with these dudes were included on the back. Tell me this isn’t a dude just begging for it:


Anyway. GET FUCKED is stitched on ivory 14 count aida cloth using two strands of DMC stranded cotton flosses for the x’s, and one strand for backstitches.I modified the charts with some further subversion by actually giving them skin tones that weren’t paper white. And then, of course, some of the hands underwent surgery to reflect with greater accuracy my complete distaste for the year just past.

Unfortunately, I’ve got a tall stack of things that have to be framed before this can be. I’ll post another pic when that happens, hopefully sometime in a much happier 2017 for all of us.