Posts Tagged ‘embroidery’
It’s early, and I’d like to be stitching. But my fountain pen leaked all over my fingers and even after scrubbing off the ink, there are stains. I worry about leaving black marks on the piece of linen I’m—ah, and now I’m derailed by the search for a verb that accurately describes what I’m doing to the linen. Not embellishing, ornamenting, decorating—all too ornate, too fancy. Ferning, perhaps. Covering it with ferns.
I’m handstitching a drawstring bag (this pattern) because handstitching, including and especially embroidery, is one of the very few activities that quiets my mind enough for real thought. Gardening works, sometimes—if I don’t fall into a swirl of longing for plants I have neither time nor budget for—and has, in the past, yielded entire books while my fingers occupied the rabbity part of my brain. Mopping wood floors works: the smell of Murphy’s Oil Soap, the light gathering on the boards, the repetitive motion. I miss the job I had for a couple of years in San Diego, cleaning the floors of a yoga studio on Saturday mornings before it opened. I did some of my best writing while vacuuming or mopping those bare floors in empty rooms.
The thing about floors is that cleaning them doesn’t take terribly long. And then they’re finished. You rinse out the mop head, put away the bucket, and you’re done. Gardening is never finished, and neither is stitching, really—I may finish one project but there are a dozen others clamoring in the wings. Lately I find myself dreaming of an interval in which I could tip the balance in the other direction: spend the afternoons stitching instead of writing. What’s with that? I baffle myself. But I have these ideas, you see…
And if there’s anything slower than writing a novel, it’s handstitching! Ha!
We finished our readaloud of The Firelings yesterday. Oh, how I wish this were still in print! If you ever come across a copy at a library sale, snatch it up. I’ve read it at least twenty times since my dad brought it home from a used bookstore when I was eleven or twelve. Probably more. It explores, as I wrote here some years ago, “the relationship between custom and reason”—a tension I have always found intensely fascinating, as anyone knows who has heard me refer to the “ham in the pan.”
I didn’t get my hands on Carol Kendall’s other books until I was older—gosh, much older, my archives tell me. I posted about The Gammage Cup in 2010, shortly after reading it for the first time. (Scott, when you see this, skip the blockquote—I know you prefer to encounter a new book with a totally blank slate. I’m probably starting Gammage as a readaloud today.)
Kendall is one of those writers whose voice I just plain enjoy. She’s a quirky storyteller with a taste for misfits. This novel is about the Minnipins, a tradition-loving people who live in small villages in an isolated mountain valley. Their distant ancestors settled here after escaping from terrible enemies about whom little is known, now, except their names: The Mushrooms. A few centuries ago, one of the Minnipins journeyed over the mountains and back via hot air balloon. Most of Fooley’s souvenirs—and memories—were scattered when he crash-landed back at home, but the remaining fragments have been carefully enshrined in a village museum and in the customs of his descendants. (You can tell them apart from the rest of the villagers by their names, which are taken from a scrap of paper that survived the crash and is now presumed to be a list of the friends Fooley made on his journey: Ave., Co., Wm., Eng., etc. “The Periods,” as these folk are reverently called, run the village.)
Folks in the village like things to be done just so, and they have little tolerance for eccentrics like Gummy the poet or lively Curley Green, who recklessly paints images of things from real life, in disregard of the proper classical style. (My kids love Kendall’s work, but her character names drive them up a wall.) When Muggles, the reluctant heroine, and her misfit friends begin to suspect the terrible Mushrooms are preparing for another attack, they have to persuade the rest of the villagers that the danger is real. Instead, they get kicked out of the village.
Whoops—time to accompany Huck to his garden gig. I’ll come home with strawberry juice on top of the inkstains. You see why I need afternoons free for stitching!
Booknotes: The Gammage Cup
This photo (Rilla, circa 2008) has summed up my mood all week. I’m just…beat. Among other things, I’ve been wrestling with this blog-post-by-email transition and—long story short—you may or may not get this post in your in-box. Who can say, really?
I had a ton of things saved up to talk about here, but instead I think I’ll just post pics of the July accomplishment I’m most excited about: I made this reversible drawstring bag! The pattern (“Modern Japanese Rice Pouch” by the wonderful KZ Stevens) says “Difficulty level: beginner” and yes! This is accurate! If I can pull it off, anyone can.
It only took me 16 months—or 10 hours, depending how you count. I assembled the patchwork pieces of the outer panel in early March, 2020, and then FOR SOME MYSTERIOUS REASON I got distracted and set the project aside. I picked it up again about a year later and embroidered a few embellishments, and then once again I got sidetracked. But about a week ago I felt a powerful need to finish something—preferably something I could hold in my hands. I remembered the drawstring bag and dug it out of my project pile.
To my surprise and delight, I was able to assemble the bag in a few hours’ time—and that included all the time I spent watching Youtube videos to troubleshoot Beanie’s sewing machine. (My own machine, a perfectly wonderful cheap little Brother that I bought in 1995 with my first-ever publishing check, decided a 25-year romance was long enough. Farewell, old friend. It’s you, it’s you must go and I must bide.)
So anyway, now I’m obsessed and want to sew ALL THE BAGS. I’m thinking this square-bottomed drawstring pouch would be a perfect way to use some of the eleventy-million pieces of embroidery I’ve amassed these past few years. I might even see if I can add a pocket or two.
But first I think I’ll work through this Seam Finishing 101 class at Creativebug. (That’s an affiliate link because I remain as wildly enthusiastic about Creativebug as ever. I’ve taken soooo many drawing, painting, and stitching classes there. The kids have done a bunch, too. In my opinion it remains the best bang-for-your-buck subscription for a crafting family. They have a deal right now where you can buy an annual pass for $50 and get $50 to spend at Joann’s. Or you can do a free trial and sample a bunch of different classes.) Whenever I sew something that more or less works out, I feel sort of dazed and lucky, as if success were entirely a matter of chance instead of, you know, skill. I could stand to make a little headway in the skill department.
Another sewing class that caught my eye is this one on the Physics of Sewing. Color me intrigued!
Meanwhile, I’m rummaging through the archeological dig I call a garage, unearthing fabric purchased by earlier iterations of myself. Thanks for the stash, Lissa of the 1900s.
September 21, 2020 @ 8:55 am | Filed under: Books
Oh my dears, what a time we’ve had! All of us—you and I. Our ten or so days of unbreathable air really did a number on me. Losing our daily walks, and my ritual of walking around the yard and literally stopping to smell the roses—brutal. On Friday the rain came at last, and the air went from Hazardous to Very Unhealthy to the miraculous-seeming Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups. Imagine celebrating a designation like that! Especially since three of us in this household fall in that Sensitive Group.
Today the AQI readout is green, glorious green. We can breathe deeply once more. Scott and I went for a walk yesterday evening and of course the world had changed during our days of huddling indoors. Summer slipped away and autumn is coming in: air quivering with golden light, trees tinged with color, asters and brown-eyed Susans stretching out their arms. All over the neighborhood, we saw giant sections of tree trunk sawed and awaiting removal—very likely casualties of the fierce winds that ushered in our days of smoke. Just around the corner, an entire treetop is sprawled on the side of the road, cordoned off. Scott and I had a moment of retroactive alarm, imagining what might have happened if our next-door neighbor hadn’t taken down the dear old dead birch in the sidewalk strip right next to the boundary of our yard. We were sad to see it go—but it kept dropping larger and larger limbs, and safety demanded its removal. Just in time, I think. If the winds had taken it down, all the power, phone, and cable lines would surely have gone with it.
This morning feels like a fresh start. I love fresh starts! I began a new embroidery piece during my creative-practice time—a Sarah K. Benning design, a tumble of fall wildflowers. Usually when I work designs created by someone else, I like to change up the colors to put my own stamp on the project. But this time I think I’ll stick to Sarah’s palette, which is full of yellow and gold and orange and brown—colors I seldom reach for on my own! Those brown-eyed Susans are insisting on it.
I was looking for something in Dropbox and found a bundle of design elements I bought for my website a zillion years ago. Lots of pretty watercolor images and other goodies. There don’t seem to be any designer credits in the files, though surely there was documentation somewhere? I haven’t looked through all the files—much of it looks like things easily created in Canva now—but there was a folder full of watercolored butterflies, moths, leaves, and other bits of nature. I grabbed the image above to brighten up this post, and it turned into a twenty-minute effort to find a designer name in order to credit the artist. I mean, the entire purpose of a design elements package like this is that you’re allowed unlimited (and uncredited) use of the images. But someone made this art and it bugs me not to be able to say who.
Those lost minutes exemplify my theory that everything in modern life takes a minimum of 20 minutes longer than than you think it will. Especially internetty things. We’ve built a rabbit warren and we’re forever getting lost in meandering tunnels. And every seemingly simple task involves half a dozen steps, at least one of which will rack up your extra 20 minutes.
As of yesterday, we are now a one-vehicle family. Since our move to Portland, I don’t drive much at all. Our old Saturn was out of commission for a long while, but we got it running again last fall and decided not to renew the minivan lease when it expired. This after I did the math and realized just how much each infrequent van trip was costing us each month. I’d rather take a Lyft if I’m going across the river, anyway—I loathe hunting for parking downtown. And we do most of our daily errands on foot now: possibly my most favorite thing of the many things I love about living here. Groceries a block away. Dozens of cafes, pubs, and restaurants within walking distance. Two bus lines moments from our door, making it easy for my older kids to commute to work and school and Powell’s Books and other essential destinations. I could even walk to my doctor’s office if I needed to. I don’t tend to, because it’s next door to a grocery store I like, and the walk home is uphill. But I could.
Of course this means we’re now three seats short for a whole-family excursion, but an occasional rental (or two Lyfts) is still a lot cheaper than keeping the Odyssey.
Scott and I had been worriting over the end-of-lease busywork for a while, and yesterday’s turn-in appointment felt a bit anticlimactic—we’d had no one big family moment where we said goodbye to the minivan that bridged our time between San Diego and Portland. It’s just suddenly…gone. Along with (we just this minute realized) my I’d Rather Be Reading Betsy-Tacy license plate frame. Whoops. Scott’s making a call to the dealer as I type. Fingers crossed!
I got the stitches out of my nose on Thursday! And things are looking pretty good. Still in my jammies this morning so no pics:) There’s one small bump of scar tissue on the bridge of my nose that I’m worried is going to hang out and look like a perpetual pimple, but other than that I’m really quite amazed at how well the incisions have healed already. The scar is a faint red line zigzagging along my nose, and it’ll fade. There’s still some swelling so that my nostrils aren’t in exactly the same places they used to be. In a few weeks I’m supposed to start kneading and massaging the tissue daily to help break down scar tissue and restore the original shape. I’m hoping that means the one little scar bump will flatten out as well? If not, it’s only noticeable in profile. I’ll live. 🙂
I’m not yet able to put sunscreen on it, which means I’m going to have to overcome my aversion to wearing hats long enough to get my walks in—spring has arrived in full force and I need to be out in it! Cherry blossoms, plum blossoms, daffodils, grape hyacinths, hellebores—oh it’s a magical time! Rilla just noticed the neighbor’s clematis vines have climbed into the hedgehog tree. The tree (a dogwood) hasn’t yet begun to leaf out, but its bare limbs are clothed in a green shawl embroidered all over with starry white flowers.
Oh gosh, that makes me want a leaf-green shawl I could stitch all over with little white flowers. —Because that’s what I need: another stitching project. I have so many going at once right now! I spent some time reorganizing my studio this week, and now everything has a place again and I know what I’ve got in progress. A few things are quite close to being finished. Why am I still writing? There’s stitching to be done!
I like to use up all my spare bits of floss from other projects on this Dropcloth sampler. It’s one of several hoops that live in a basket beside my writing chair. I pick it up often to occupy my hands when I need to think about the work for a minute. I have magnets stuck to a tin candle jar that sits on a shelf in arm’s reach, and whenever I have a long tail of floss left in the needle after finishing a section of another project, I stick the needle to one of the magnets. That way it’s easy to grab one when I hit a tricky spot in whatever I’m writing. This red-stripe sampler has accompanied me for months—through the final revision of my novel, a slew of Brave Writer Arrow literature guides, a dozen poem drafts, and any number of posts. It’s my mental scratch pad! Every stitch represents a moment NOT spent scrolling a feed and killing my flow.
I think what I love most about this practice is that each bit of thread is tied to concrete experiences. I can glance at a row and recognize the color I was using up from another stitching project—oh look, it’s that flower petal!—and the work I was puzzling over when I added stitches to the row. It’s a kind of coded journal. Unintentionally, serendipitously. Turns out my best writing hack was a total accident. The happiest kind!