Posts Tagged ‘celtic’

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. 🙂