One More Time

Posted: January 7, 2019 by suegrain in Besties, Finished Stitches, Stuff

It’s been quite a while since I posted anything, here. Not even an update for ongoing projects. I’ve posted pictures on the Book of Faces, but other than that, I’ve been silent on the stitching front. Part of the reason is because three years on, I’m still processing various levels of grief for a variety of people and even this country (and that’s all I’m going to say on that particular subject in this post).

However, along about late spring or early summer of 2018, a dear friend of mine announced that his wife was finally pregnant and past her first trimester.  Suffice it to say that they’d been trying for many years and were over the moon about passing that milestone. Naturally, I passed the news on to my bestie, Alesia who is the one that introduced me to Hal some years ago.

The conversation went something like this:

A: “We should do something special for them!”

S: “We totally should! I’ll have to dig through my stash and see if I have something that will work.”

A: “You could do another crib blanket!”

S: “I …. could. Dammit, why do you do this to me?!”

Needless to say, doing yet another crib blanket was the last thing I wanted to do, at the time of this conversation for one reason: To my perspective, it seemed as if I had just finished the last one from Bev’s list. Of course, grief is not kind to linear time and I realized it had been at least a year since I finished the last one. Alesia, whether consciously or not, had actually hit upon the one thing I might need to help reconcile those projects from a bittersweet experience to a much more joyous one.

Once the idea had taken root, I started perusing my favorite online stitching shop. Now, it may sound relatively easy to simply pick out a pattern, but do you know how saccharine sweet those things can be?! I mean, really… you almost need an insulin shot just to look at them.  So, I had to find one that fit what I knew of their personalities, what fit with mine and yet was cute and adorable for a baby. After about an hour, I finally settled on one and ordered it. While waiting for it, I had a chance to gear up for stitching it and for setting aside other projects while I did so. I had a Yule project in the works, but a first baby only comes once, so that’s what I focused on for the rest of the year.

During that process, I obviously thought a lot about Bev, Alesia, and Theresa (another high school friend of 30+ years). All of them are best friends to me, in their own ways. Heart-sisters that I would aid however I could if they needed it. As with all sisters, we don’t (or didn’t) always agree. However, I knew they’d have my back if I needed it just as surely as I’d have theirs.  I know that my life would be so much poorer if I’d never met them. I also know that living as far apart, physically, as we did made it difficult to maintain the friendship (before the advent of the intar-webs, folks). For instance, I don’t know Bev’s daughter, Debbie, as well as I might like and I know Theresa’s kids hardly at all. Alesia’s I know a bit better because we talk a lot about our kids to each other and I’ve spent vacation time with her boys when I visited her over the last 25 years. There is regret there for that lack and guilt, even if I know that I did what was right for me and my family.

That last I realized as I stitched this particular crib blanket. And I realized it when we had Theresa here visiting over the summer.  “How far apart did we really move?” I asked myself. Not just in physical miles, but emotionally and spiritually. I know we’ve all changed over the years. That’s usually inevitable, but I found myself wondering just how much that change affected our friendships. I think the largest difference in how Bev and I changed is that I didn’t fight quite so hard to keep things the same. 🙂 We both had a difficult time with physical changes ( shifts in routines, scheduling shifts, &c.), but my being the “cleric” of our duo had me embracing the spiritual and emotional change more readily. I came to accept that our divergent growth was really okay.  And that, my friends, was one of the realizations I needed in learning how to carry grief.

Being the eldest of my dad’s four girls had me taking on responsibility for nurturing and caring far earlier than I normally would. It was exacerbated by my parents’ alcoholism and divorce. So those habits of thought and deed are not so easily set aside. Nor is the guilt and regret for not fulfilling some part of my “role” because your friends are not on the same path as you. I felt as if I had somehow failed in my duty and responsibility in not getting her to see and understand some esoteric, essential truth because I wasn’t with her all the time, anymore. It was never conscious, that guilt and regret but realizing I had it helped me into that other realization: That it was okay if we’d grown differently. That we hadn’t lost anything that made our friendship so special, that we could and did stand strong together and apart.

I finished this blanket with more love and joy than I expected to because of that realization and I put it lovingly in its box and sent it on its way last week. Even though this weekend (Jan. 5 and 6) marks the third anniversary of Bev’s passing and I still grieve, the burden has shifted. It’s not quite such a heavy thing to carry, anymore. I will probably carry it for some time, yet but at least I know how to do that better.

Now, here are the pics of Emma’s blanket:


Die Mad About It, from AE Matson, MetPubInc/GCXSD

As you can see, I finished the model stitch for Die Mad About It yesterday.

Afterward, I had all the usual feelings I expect when completing a large cross stitch project — joy, pride, and even a little wistful sadness because that part of the experience was over — but the sense of accomplishment I felt after this one stuck with me for hours and hours, so much so that I had to check myself a bit. So, as I rolled the extra water out of the linen with a dry towel, then laid it out face down to press, I thought about what was different about this one, when so much seemed the same.

The obvious answer is that so much more of this one was mine, right from the start. The saying itself I picked up from a tweet by Melanie Dione (@beauty_jackson), after it went  viral. The font and border motif I adapted from a PDF in the Antique Pattern Library, choosing the colors, then modifying it a bit for modern eyes. The design itself is my effort, my time, my inspiration, skull sweat, with the support of my stitchy sisters on facebook. I committed to the model stitch knowing it was a large project (15 inches across), then saw it through, marking every single mistake and change on the paper printout to input into the design software.

After I figured I’d steamed enough water out of it, I flipped it over and realized I was feeling something I haven’t felt in a very, very long time. It was more than simple joy, or even accomplishment. For the first time in ages, I felt fulfilled. I remember feeling this way the first time I read Raven’s Tears after we’d published it. Not  so much with Dead Man’s Triggerbut there were extenuating circumstances that kept me from feeling happy about much of anything, let alone “fulfilled”.

That’s three times in… four years.

Anyway, I realized, slowly, painfully, that this is what’s missing from all those conversations we’ve been having about why so many of us “aren’t happy” when so many of the pieces are in place, and we feel as if we should be. It’s not anyone else’s fault, it’s nothing anyone has done or hasn’t done, said or hasn’t said. It’s not necessarily that anything is missing. I’m not upset, angry, worried, frustrated, or anything like that. It’s just that, in general, I’m not… happy. And, that’s not something anyone else can fix.

Maybe we’ve been using the wrong metric. “Happiness” is a fleeting state, it’s a mood, it appears and passes like all the others do. Maybe it was a mistake for us to focus on trying to hold on to “happiness”, like trying to hold a wave on the sand, or a cloud in the sky. Maybe what we’re really missing is “fulfillment”, because we’ve been enculturated to believe in happiness, and that it’s somehow supposed to be our “default state.”


Now, I kinda suspect that I’ve been sold a bill of goods on that.

My guess is that we’re meant to lead creative lives, not necessarily happy ones, and that creative pulse, the one that sets us free and lets us experience a fulfilled life is unique to each of us. It’s worth noting that I still feel fulfilled, after bringing my new project into the world, and it’s well into the next day. I’ve been mildly happy and/or unhappy a half-dozen times since then, but that underlying sense of accomplishment is buoying me up when a lot of other BS could be bringing me down.

I want every human being to lead a life where fulfillment is the default state.

I wonder what an entire society of fulfilled human beings looks like, and how it functions. I bet they spend a fuck of a lot less money on things in an attempt to fill that internal hole with “happiness” — which explains a lot, when you think about the constant advertising assault we live with, every day.

Something to ponder.





Maybe It’s You

Posted: January 22, 2018 by zenstitcher in Chart, For Sale, Funny
Tags: , , ,

Cross stitch pattern for hand embroidery

I hardly even need to tell the story on this one, do I. People are hard. Working with people is even harder. Sometimes, you just have to say it. Other times, you just wish you did.

Maybe It’s You is 64 stitches wide by 61 high. It’s a very clear, simple message, so it’s set against the bias, or on the diagonal, for added punch. It can be stitched using any combination of fabric and flosses, but I suspect the more contrast you have for this project, the better you’ll like the result.

This could also be a prime candidate for a t-shirt and some waste canvas!

P.S. Making text on a diagonal is TOUGH. 🙂

You can click on the image to take you to the place where you can grab a PDF copy of this chart for your own, or you can use this one:

Thanks for stopping by!

My 2017 Finishes [photos]

Posted: December 31, 2017 by zenstitcher in Finished Stitches, Stuff
Tags: , , , , ,

Some years I get more accomplished, others much less, but I’m pretty proud of my 2017 finishes. I’ve been in a much better mental and emotional state this year, overall. The setbacks were horrid, but mercifully brief, and some truly good things happened to me this year that didn’t come about from fuckery, first. 🙂 Fingers crossed for 2018.

Not in chronological order, because you can’t expect computers to understand that kind of thing, I guess:

Hell Bats is my design, so it counts as two finishes. 😉

Art Nouveau Letters, by Ink Circles, on a piece of dusty pink 30 ct murano, a poly-cotton blend. This chart was a surprise gift from my adopted daughter, Rachel O’Gorman. I started it during 2017’s stitchy retreat with the other grimalkin here, Sue. 🙂

Rebel Princess was my first finish of 2017. It’s attached to my Ott lamp, in honor and memory of Carrie Fisher. Design by CatLadyXStitching on Etsy.

I made this from an old plastic casette tape box so my husband could take his favorite bulk tea along with him on overnight trips. The design came from an issue of Cross Stitch Collection.

Clitarita is another of my designs, and the first design I ever offered for sale. I stitched it on 28 ct black monaco.

This set of chess piece “coasters” was in an issue of Just Cross Stitch in 2016, but I finished the last of four for my husband this past year. Design by Marie Barber. The finished king is below.

This was another colorway for Mackintosh Roses, a design from Cross Stitch Collection. Design by Maria Diaz.

Sorry it’s sideways. Contortionist Santa ornaments for my daughter in law, step-grandchildren, and great-granddaughter.

This is for the “sea whore” stitch-along in the WTFYW XS group. Design from Makibird, on DeviantArt.

Another piece for one of the WTFYW stitch-alongs. Design by Makibird, on DeviantArt.

And this is what I stitched for my bestie, who has had a fucking rough couple of years and has never been far from my thoughts. The kitty alphabet is one for which I did not save the link, and I’m sorry for that. :-\

Except for one more small thing that I can’t post about because it’s not been delivered yet, that’s it. 2018 promises a couple of BIG finishes in addition to the smaller pieces, if the WIPs underway are any indication. Thanks for stopping by to take a look.

Let Justice Roll Down Like Waters [free xs chart]

Posted: December 2, 2017 by zenstitcher in Chart, Free
Tags: , , , ,

If you click on this:


You get a PDF of this:

Comey FBI Impeach 45

Amos 5:24


Consider it a gift from me, inspired by the ever-inscrutable James Comey. I did the chart colors in blues, but this would look fabulous stitched in black, on mottled blue and white hand dyed fabric. 😉




A Trio of Dreadful Delights [Don’t Hesitate]

Posted: November 15, 2017 by zenstitcher in Chart, For Sale
Tags: , , ,

This was a delightful bit of inspiration. I had to stop The Big Damn Art Nouveau Alphabet in mid-design in order to create the Belle Monde Alphabetthen do the sampler from that, then decide on the graphic elements I wanted to add, and figure out how to chart them. I learned a lot about this software I’m using, including ways to manipulate what’s on the screen to make the work a bit easier. I don’t like how it does the page breaks in its PDF rendering, but I can’t quarrel with the tools it gives me to create  this stuff.

Why all the bother, you may be asking? Well, hubs and I had decided to rewatch the first season of Penny Dreadful to see if it was as brutal as we remembered it being. The answer was “yes,” it certainly is — but we’re doing much better now, and there were some cool bits, too. When Sir Malcom says this, in the first episode, it made my hair stand on end, and I saw the words in sampler form, in a creepy, ripply kind of alphabet. This was why I stopped my progress at “K” in TBDANA to do Belle Monde, and this was the inevitable result.

Copyright 2017 Alesia Matson

Don’t Hesitate, in the Belle Monde Alphabet. Sorry about that gray square — screen previews are kinda limited.

Don’t Hesitate is the first in a series of Penny Dreadful designs I’ve got planned.  This is a sampler design, done in 185 x 185 stitches and four colors. The PDF is in 14 pages, and the chart itself is broken up across 12 of them. It’s mostly full cross stitch, but there’s a tiny bit of back stitching in this one for the bitsy spider legs. And, as you can see much better in this sampler, these letters are not all uniform in size or in alignment, and this adds an extra, subtle little ripple in your vision as you read, not unlike some of the better visual effects in the series. I chose ancient Egyptian motifs because they underpin so much of the first season, and you’ll know what the claws and spiders are about if you’ve seen anything about this show at all — anyone whinging about spoilers gets turned over to Libby for education on this, may their gods have mercy upon them — and I chose to design my own rather than risk infringing on anyone else’s trademark. I like to think they hint at that aesthetic, at least.

As with all the designs that need to be model stitched, the price on this “beta” PDF is half what the full list price will be ($10.50), eventually, when/if I ever get caught up on the analog end of this. 😀 And when I finish the model stitch and release the final version, everyone who purchased this early version gets a free copy of the final, with my gratitude.

Now… here’s what else you get for buying in early: individual PDF copies of the Red Scorpion and the Eye of Horus. All 3 for $5.25 until the PDF of Don’t Hesitate is finalized.

Copyright 2017 Alesia Matson

Red Scorpion can actually be whatever color you want.


Copyright 2017 Alesia Matson

Horus Eye Sees You

If you’re interested in these more than you are the big sampler, let me know. I’ll have them up for .99 cents each when the new cart service goes up.

Ooooookay. Time for me to make myself shut down this side of my brain for a few hours and do something utterly else — like sink into some stitching while I treat myself to a rewatch of Liz Taylor’s Cleopatra.

As always, if you’d like to purchase any of my designs, reach out to me in the comments here, or on fb, or by looking me up via aematson ([at]) metaphorpublications ([dot]) com, without all the bot-busting falderal, in email so we can get ‘er done.

Thanks for reading along — you guys make the work on this stuff a lot of fun to share.



Introducing: the Belle Monde Alphabet

Posted: November 15, 2017 by zenstitcher in Chart, For Sale
Tags: , , ,

I got so excited about this yesterday that I released it into our Grimalkin Crossing group on fb  without posting about it here, first. In my defense, I was hella tired — my body is still not over the time change — and I did/do think this one is kinda squee-worthy.

Without further ado, meet Belle Monde:

Copyright 2017, Alesia Matson

A font from a sadder, madder world.

I interrupted work on the rest of the letters in the font for “Die Mad About It” to start and finish this one. I’ve been imagining certain letters for a couple of weeks now, and got inspired to get it the fuck done already after a rewatch of the first season of Penny Dreadful. I’ve planned a sampler series from that series that needs this alphabet in the world, and I hope to drop the first in that series later today, so I can go back to The Big Damn Art Nouveau Alphabet (TBDAN, don’t make me type it all out every time). I’ve gotten through “K” on that project, for those of you who’ve been waiting.

If you’d like a copy of the Belle Monde Alphabet for your personal use, I’m asking $4.25 for a PDF copy.  Let me know in the comments, and we’ll figure out how to take it someplace more private to discuss the details. 😉



Screw that whole “present participle” business. Here in far northern California, Winter Has Landed. We didn’t get much of an “autumn,” so everyone I know has “conservation” on the brain — canning produce, winterizing homes and vehicles, wintering over gardens, &c. Even though the poplar tree outside my front door still has most of its bright yellow leaves intact, the temps have dropped into the thirties at night and I officially can’t get my feet warm if I’m standing on any non-carpeted surface in this house. The tent-sized, purple velour robe is daily wear in the mornings, and the fabric creates a delightful little nest when I sit with my legs folded which makes my little grimalkin purr contentedly while discharging acres of fur all over it. She and I have renewed our yearly discussion about “specialty fibers” — how its her duty to provide those fine, tiny fur strands to tangle in my flosses as I stitch, and how its mine to pick every one of those fuckers off the fabric when I find them.

The question I get asked — by humans, not Libby — is “Why?” Why bother? You’ll never get them all, anyway. Who’s going to notice?

It’s a good question, but one without a snappy, satisfactory answer. I can only say what I’ve been told, and a bit more I researched for myself, and then pass it on. Whether you’ll regard it as “wisdom” or not might also be dependent on if you’re interested in long-term conservation of your stitching. If you’re not, don’t waste another moment of your precious time on this post — this one isn’t for you. 🙂

For those of us who are interested in this, at least for some projects, the wisdom runs thusly:

  • Each strand of animal fur, if looked at under a microscope, is a strand of sharp serrated blades (scales) wrapped around a flexible keratin core that will, over time, slice the ever-loving fuck out of cotton, linen, and other vegetable fibers. These tiny cuts degrade both fabric and floss over time, and are part of the reason for the fiber decay you see in older stitched works.
  • The addition of this kind of organic matter includes introducing mites and mite shit into your work. This isn’t such a big deal if they can be washed after stitching is complete, but in projects that can’t be washed (delicate or non-colorfast fibers), it is another factor to consider. Apparently the pH of mite shit and dead mite carcasses isn’t a great mix with that of your stitching, or so I learned when I looked into it.

The last reason is less about conservation than coverage.

  • The finest of those furry bits, particularly from a fur undercoat, are problematic in that they will twist themselves up in floss strands as you’re stitching, and tighten around as you pull the floss through(like bundling grasses with twine), reducing the floss’s coverage over the fabric. I consider this more a contributing factor to poor floss coverage than a prime cause, but with the tiny fractions we’re talking about, every micron matters.

They’re three points to consider in your decision to pluck, or not to pluck. If you do decide plucking matters, in addition to a good light source and a magnifier of some sort, I recommend at least one pair of these:

How do you deal with “specialty fibers” in your stitched work?

Die Mad About It, the beta release

Posted: November 1, 2017 by zenstitcher in Chart, For Sale
Tags: , , , ,

Maybe this is overdue — but I hope it’s worth waiting for.

Inspired by a tweet by Melanie Dione (@beauty_jackson), “Die Mad About It” became the viral battle cry for every woman who is fed up with having to explain or excuse the fact that she uses contraception for any reason, but mainly because liking sex doesn’t equal liking pregnancy and/or babies anymore, if it ever did. Honestly, though I’ve loved every needleworked version of this that I’ve seen so far, I couldn’t resist going for something big. I just felt that if you’re going say this to someone, you really ought to mean it.

It’s the kind of statement you really want commit to, and you want to enunciate it clearly, like a fucking lady.

original design by AE Matson of Grimalkin Crossing XSD.

In flaming red and gold, too. Design area =232w x 107h

Read the rest of this entry »

Hell Bats! [blog post]

Posted: October 23, 2017 by zenstitcher in Chart, For Sale
Tags: , , ,

I wanted to design something seasonal. And small — ornament sized, no bigger, even on 14 count aida. And then I found a vintage design in one of the pattern archives that inspired me because, IMO bats don’t get nearly the love they deserve.

The PDF of this was to have been in your greedy virtual hands last week — but the digital fates are fickler than most, and so here we are. I’m just entirely grateful that my partner/husband/co-conspirator understands the nitty-gritty, nuts-and-bolts of these things to be able to master them when they try to go feral on me.

This is Hell Bats! It’s about 3″ square, and it will be more like 3.25″ square when I back stitch the border around it (it’s becoming a biscornu as soon as I get the other side stitched).

Copyright 2017 AE Matson, all rights reserved

Introducing Hell Bats! an original design from Grimalkin Crossing.

Hell Bats! is available via PDF from me directly, as is its first variation, inspired by my favorite fairy tale villain. Hell Bats for Maleficent. What you see below is a modified version of a screen shot from my work station, not the actual chart itself. If you’d like a screen shot of what the chart looks like in PDF form, feel free to message me on FB or at the email I’m listing below. I’ll be happy to send one along so you can judge the quality for yourself. ❤

Copyright AE Matson, all rights reserved

Hell Bats for Maleficent, a modified screen shot

Individually, these PDFs are priced at $3.25 for either. But! to celebrate — the return of fall, the return of the rains that doused the wildfires, my ability to finish these designs, and the clearing of this project from my stack — for a limited time — through November 1st — I’d like to offer BOTH for the sale price of $5.25.

To purchase, please send an email to me at the following address, correcting all the fuckery to outwit bots, &c: aematson ([at]) metaphorpublications ([dot]) com.

In the Subject line, put Hell Bats PDF

In the text body, tell me what you want:

  • Hell Bats! in PDF for $3.25
  • Hell Bats for Maleficent in PDF for $3.25
  • HELL BATTIER! I want both for $5.25!

I’ll send you an invoice for the total via PayPal. You’ll pay it, I’ll ship you all the Hell Bats you can handle. ❤

Honestly, we are working to make this easier for everyone. It’s on the To Do list, I promise. 🙂  Until then, if PayPal isn’t your thing for whatever reason, let me know via email and we’ll work something else out!

Thanks again for your continuing interest in these designs. Next up? My version of