Posts Tagged ‘linen’

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.






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?

A Chatelaine’s Collar

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

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!!