Archive for the ‘Finished Stitches’ Category

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. 🙂  So there you have it — what do you think?

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. 🙂

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. 🙂  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. 🙂

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
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As some of you may know, a 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.”  🙂  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’n 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.”  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. 😀

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!!

My Fond Farewell to 2016 

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.

A Little Holiday Stitching

Posted: December 28, 2016 by zenstitcher in Finished Stitches
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I did gift a few stitchies this season. When my niece Xtina reached out to me after the US election, it turned out to be one very sweet silver lining to what otherwise has been a shit-show of a year. She and her wife and their two kids are an adorable family, and I hope one day to see them all in person. 🙂

I did these for the kids, Phoebe and Elijah:

Elijah’s Santa Star is by Kooler Design Studios’ “I Love Santa” ornament collection. It’s stitched on white 28 count monaco, “over two” with DMC cotton flosses. then personalized it with his name and the year. All x’s done with two strands of floss. Back stitches are done with one strand. I finished it on self-stick foam mounting board, covered the back with craft felt with my trusty hot glue gun, then hand-braided that fucking cord because my fucking cord winder was fucking MIA and don’t get me started on where it turned up, just yesterday.  😦  Anyway, I tacked down the braid with more cotton floss, then fastened three jingle bells to the top because Christmas.


Xtina told me that her daughter liked mermaids, and purple. Armed with that, I can whip up just about anything. 

Design template from The SnowFlower Diaries

The template for this comes from  The Snowflower Diaries‘ Summer Mermaid chart. As you can see, I’ve taken a few liberties with the design and color choices. These are all cotton flosses, stitched on light blue 28 count monaco “over two.” The mermaid’s booby covers and fishy parts are done in one of the DMC variegateds (can’t recall the number just now, ask in the comments if you’re interested and I’ll look it up). The flower stem is a variegated green from The Gentle Art. The rest are standard DMC, color fast and no-fuss for as long as I’ve been stitching with them. 🙂 All x’s done with two strands of floss. Back stitches are done with one strand.

I finished this in similar fashion to the Santa Star. This one needed an extra layer of backing between the glued-down fabric and felt, so I cut a piece of chipboard (non-corrugated cardboard, like cereal boxes) to size and sandwiched it between the two. Then the edges were hella rough, so out came the purple 1/4″ ribbon to seal that off and neated it up a bit. Then the hand-braided cord, tacked on with floss, and more jingle bells because why wouldn’t you.


Now for the super fun part. I had to improvise and problem-solve on the fly to get these finished and I’m hella proud of them.

Stitchy design by Marie Barber. The rest is all me.

Upcycled aluminim tins make excellent gifts as gift boxes.

I’d stitched the Mackintosh Roses project twice, I loved it so much, and have been sort of waiting to give them as a pair, because I’d never have been able to decide which to part with, otherwise. They were from the UK magazine Cross Stitch Collection. I’d subscribed to their digital version for a couple of years, and probably will again, honestly. I really like the designs they feature, and got more to stitch out of those digital mags then I’ve got time to stitch them in, especially now. These were stitched on two different kinds of 28 count Irish linen, over two, using two strands of DMC cotton flosses for the cross stitches, and one strand for back stitches.

Measure measure measure omg cut!  I hate cutting that close to my stitchies, as anyone who knows me will tell you. I was successful, not once but twice, then sat down with a big glass of wine afterward, to calm my nerves. After I got settled, I used Fray Check to seal the edges, and brushed a little Modge Podge for Fabrics over some carefully measured squares of craft felt both to stiffen them and to provide something a buffer between the linen and hot glue.

The gift boxes were aluminum tins. They looked something like this:

We don’t recommend this product, fwiw.

Now, who ships plastic-sealed flea collars in pressed aluminum tins, ffs? I dunno, they didn’t work so great for our dogs, but the tins had way too much potential to be pitched in the recycling bin. Then lo and behold, I found myself with a need for two gift boxes. 

Steel wool to scrape off the gloss and some of the dye in the paint, then tape off where it fits together because the paint would just get rubbed off with use, anyway.  Several coats of bright white spray paint later, I had them inside to line the tops and bottoms with craft felt. I filled them full of assorted LIndor Chocolate Truffles, tacked the stitchies down to the tops of the tins with hot glue, and squee’d a little at how awesome they looked.

Xtina sent me back a pic of them, where they’re living in their new home. I couldn’t be any more tickled.


Now, for the subversive part of the post.

  1. DMC had a mentorship thing going for awhile (this is before their Commonthread thing). I got a spiffy pin for applying, and also some tiny beginner kits to use to teach counted cross stitch. I pitched four of them into that box before I shipped it. The famly that stitches together can be subverted together — that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it. 😀
  2. GET FUCKED went into the soak just a little while ago. So glad I started using Fabricare (you may know it as Orvus) on my stitching, HOMG. What a huge difference it’s made. I used to use whatever dish soap I had on hand with a splash of hydrogen peroxide, but not anymore. I can never quite believe what all comes out of the fabric and flosses after a few hours. Makes me realize just how dirty an old broad I am, but I really don’t want that kind of grime preserved for posterity. :-p

Festive Mermaid Ornament 

Posted: November 25, 2016 by zenstitcher in Finished Stitches
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Keeping with the stitching to preserve what’s left of my sanity. My niece reached out to me after the election and we’ve been able to reconnect and catch up a bit in the days since. She’s one of the few younger folks in the family who’ve spoken up to say that she likes my stitching – and that she had a couple of kids who’d appreciate receiving hand-stitched ornaments. 🙂 I hope it’s true.

I took the template for this from a summer mermaid chart from the Snowflower Diaries and had a ball making changes based on what I’d been told of her preferences. What fun.

Looks like a party to me!

This is 28 ct light blue monaco, stitched over 2 with cotton flosses. The flower stem is a variegated green from The Gentle Art. The rest of the flosses are DMC. 

I’m still mulling how to finish it. There’ll be another pic when the get that part sorted.

Completed: Spring Butterfly

Posted: November 3, 2016 by zenstitcher in Finished Stitches
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On sheer aesthetic value, this is one of the loveliest things I’ve ever stitched.

Alessandra Adelaide’s Spring Butterfly appeared in a spring issue of Just Cross Stitch a few years ago. Like, 2013? 2014? The model was stitched in solid DMC B5200 — snow white — on a medium blue fabric. It was pretty.

All respect to the stitcher and designer, but I think mine is prettier. 😀 . I started it in December last year, and it was the main stitch project I’d taken with me to Ventura, and did much of the stitching for it while sitting in the ICU, holding space for a remarkable group of friends who were gathering there for the saddest reason of all. It came back home with me saturated with all I’d experienced while I was there: yes, sadness, of course, but also friendship, caring, support, self-sacrifice, tremendous patience, courage, and all the shades of love you can imagine.

I was honored to be there with them, at best an acquaintance to most, there mostly to care for Sue, for whom I’d go through much more than that to be a help and comfort. When I brought it back and took it out of the packing case, thinking to work on it through what was, admittedly, a pretty rough patch in my own life, it was as if the fibers themselves had absorbed the emotional energy of the trip. I could feel each of the people I’d spoken with, comforted, grieved with in the ICU as if they’d just walked in to sit down with me in my living room.

I have boundless love for all of them, but. 🙂  I smudged the dickens out of the whole thing — go on and judge me, I don’t care — which had the hilarious side-effect of attracting every single cat hair in what must have been a three-mile radius around my house. I spent more time picking cat fur off it in the weeks after that than stitching. And then I put it aside for other projects… and then I got resistant to finishing it, and then a little superstitious about it.

That’s over, clearly. Here is is, out of the soak and freshly pressed:

Design by Alessandra Adelaide, stitching by me

My Spring Butterly is stitched on Wichelt’s 32 ct “African Daisy” jobelan. I used one strand of rust-brown silk for the body, and two strands of what I now think was a limited edition dye lot from DMC — it’s numbered 127 and is in all the shades of navy blue they produce in these long, gorgeous throws of color. Each cross stitch is done “over two” and in mix of European and English techniques to keep the colors from looking too “blocky” or “streaky.”

I found no mistakes in the chart whatsoever – cannot fault the quality-control on it. It is symmetrical along the vertical axis, though I realize the variegeted floss tends to fool the eye, in that regard. I’d rank the difficulty of the project overall for intermediate to advanced level stitchers — definitely “advanced”if you’re thinking of using variegated flosses.

Here’s another for scale:

Man, get a load of those blues.

This is one I’d stitch again in a heartbeat if I found the right color combination. I’d definitely want to find variegated floss like this, with long, long flows of color rather than a choppy, confetti-style dye job.
Thanks for reading along.

Namasté, from Ink Circles

Posted: July 25, 2016 by zenstitcher in Finished Stitches
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I guess it has to be okay, these circles and cycles that life is. We start things, leave them, pick them up again later – everything from projects to friendships – and it’s all the same when we return, but it’s all different, too.

Here, without further ado, is my finish of Namasté.

20160725_143834

 

The design is from Tracy Horner at Ink Circles, though I confess to the redesign of the third/solar plexus/yellow one. I needed a fire (upward pointing) triangle in that spot, rather than the water (downward-pointing) triangle she’d used. Fortunately, her charts are so expertly done that making that change was just a matter of stitching that part of the chart upside down.

Aren’t those colors exquisite?

For those of you who are interested in spiritual things, if you’re wondering whether prolonged work with each of those colorful mandalas had effects on me/my life as I stitched them, the answer is an unequivocal YES.

I wholeheartedly recommend the chart, though. And I’ll probably stitch these again individually, just cuz they’re pretty, too.

I opted to finish them in plastic mini-embroidery hoops, which came in dusty pink and baby blue. Out came the trusty spray paint! I spent a bit of an afternoon coating them and recoating them until they were all uniform, shiny black. Then, I deployed them, thus:

 

20160725_150513

I think I rather like it.