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A Return and an Embroidery Sampler

My 100 Days Embroidery Sampler

My last post in March 2020 appears to be a strange artifact from the time before we really knew. I hope you’ve stayed healthy, that the trauma from the last two years has been minimal.

As always, one thing that keeps my mental health strong is attending to a project. My most recent project, started on 23 September, 2021, is an embroidery sampler. I decided to take the last 100 days of the year to explore embroidery. I’ve been embroidering for a long, long time, but I default to the same ol’ stitches and wanted some new faves.

You can look through the entire 100 days on Insta. I’ve had a few requests for the resources I used, so here’s a list:

Mary Corbet’s NeedlenThread: Mary has created a ton of excellent videos.

The Embroidery Stitch Lexicon by Pumora: I printed out a copy, and I found it useful for understanding different families of stitches.

The Stitches of Creative Embroidery by Jacqueline Enthoven: an oldie and a goodie!

Embroidery Stitch Bible by Betty Barnden: I borrowed this from my library and may get a copy for my fiber arts bookshelf (let’s be honest: shelves!)

Royal School of Needlework: you may get lost for days on this site. Excellent videos in their Stitch Bank.

If you’re new to embroidery, I highly recommend taking a class. Rebecca Ringquist’s classes on CreativeBug are terrific, and if you can take a live class with Cal Patch, I know you’ll get lots of new skills! I’ve taught embroidery at my LYS, in private lessons, and for a local young woman’s group. It’s always a blast to get folx excited about this low-cost, easy-entry skill.

Four on Friday: Keep Calm Edition

Eleven seconds of wood frog love just for you.

We all know this is not a normal time. We’ve seen the flatten the curve infographic. We’re avoiding large gatherings, washing our hands, checking in on our elders. Right?

Maybe this means extra time at home. It does for me; the university where I teach extended Spring Break a week for in-person classes and will hold all classes online the following week. And then, I guess, we’ll see.

I’ll have plenty of work-related tasks to keep me busy–endless grading, recording lectures for online consumption–but I’m also gaining five hours a week usually spent commuting. And I plan to use those five hours in ways that will keep me calm and let me feel good about the world. Here are four of my ideas:

  1. Write a letter. The Letters to Our Legacy program entices me, primarily because I love writing letters, and I’ve always longed to find a capsule of letters from my ancestors!
  2. Support art. I’ve had to cancel museum visits, in-person workshops as an attendee and an instructor. But there are other ways to support art–whether you share videos from your favorite indie band as a way to help them build a larger fan base or buy a book (online, natch) from a local poet or press (I highly recommend Hail and Farewell and Girldom)–you don’t need to spend a lot (or anything) to help artists continue their beautiful and important work. Here’s a resource to learn more.
  3. Make something. Bonus if you support the awesome folks who design for us makers by buying a pattern from them. Many of my friends who make part or all of their livelihood through designing and teaching are losing income as events and gatherings get canceled in the interest of social distancing. I’ll be watching one of Cal’s CreativeBug classes while I’m at home. And if you can’t afford to buy patterns or online classes? There are plenty of terrific free patterns from many established designers…I plan to make Ann Wood‘s pincushion doll and maybe a very nice mouse. I’ll post about my makes on Instagram, and perhaps I’ll help drive traffic to the designers’ sites.
  4. Keep moving. I have a daily yoga practice, and I know time spent stretching and breathing mindfully aids with a calm state of mind. I’ll be outside with the dogs as much as possible, hiking or playing toss with them (well, with Oskar. Coco’s not much for chasing balls). And when it gets warm enough (it was on Monday!), I’ll get back on my bike.

All of this is to say: I hope you are well, that you practice good hygiene and social distancing, and that you keep yourself calm and serene in whatever ways work for you.

Three on Thursday: Generosity

The incredible, edible egg.

I’ve thought a lot about generosity of late. I strive to be generous (in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done and what I have failed to do, the Catholic girl in me wants to chant, not in an act of penance, but in an act of edification), and I admire generosity in others so much. So today’s list will be about generosity, particularly generosity shown to me.

  1. Look at those eggs! My lovely student Teresa brought them to me (fresh from her adorable chickens) this week with an open-hearted generosity that reminds me how fortunate I am to know my students.
  2. Ann Wood‘s free patterns. I am always willing to pay for patterns. I want to support designers and makers whose work I admire. Yet there’s a generous sweetness when a designer offers a pattern to the world, sharing the joy of making something to delight.
  3. Free Writing Support. My dear friend and mentor Joyce Hayden offers Writing with Joy, a free writing accountability hour. If you are a writer, you will love this low-pressure group. I have joined a few times and it has been so productive. She writes on Zoom from 7-8pm eastern Monday-Thursday and anyone who wants to set that time aside for themselves, is welcome to join her on Zoom and spend an hour working on your project. To join, email her at joywag@yahoo.com.She sends links for the week on Sunday evening…you join at your convenience..every night, once a week, once a month! Give it a try!!!

I’d love to hear how you’ve been generous lately or about someone you’ve noticed being generous. Can there ever be enough generosity?

Three on Thursday: Habit or Ritual or a Little of Both

A stitch a day keeps the doctor away…

Two years ago, Neal bought me a t-shirt that really made me feel seen. It reads “Steady Habits USA”and is from Hartford Prints. Connecticut, if you don’t know, is nicknamed “Land of Steady Habits”. As a person who believes deeply in the Flaubert quote “[b]e regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work,” I have cultivated many habits. Some stick for a long time, others develop and shift. Today I’ll share three of my current faves.

  1. Yoga. I practice some days for 10 minutes, some days for 90. Most days I do a home practice with Yoga with Adriene videos. I invested a few years ago in a membership to her site, and I’m so happy to support her work. I have practiced every day for over 1,500 days. I know my chain will one day break, but I love and crave time on my mat every day.
  2. Five-year journal. With the nice round number at the start of the year, I figured I’d keep a little record of how the decade unfolds. It’s been fun to jot down thoughts about the day before I go to bed every night. Since the journal is pretty big, when I go away, I just write my entry in whatever notebook I have with me and transfer to the “official” journal when I get home. I think this will be pretty cool to review in 2025! (ok, can I just say typing that number seems SOOO futuristic?!?)
  3. Morning Pages. Over the last 20 years, I’ve done this practice, habit, ritual–it is a bit of them all– on and off, primarily on. It’s a great brain dump on waking up and a helpful way to work out problems in my writing, teaching, relationships–any part of my life, really. After a different morning writing practice for about 18 months, this year I’m back at the morning pages and enjoying them.
  4. Ok, this is one more than three (and it’s Thursday, not Friday, which would alliterate with four and be far more clever than, say, Four on Thursday), but I’ve got the picture up there, so I have to connect to it, right? Hand stitching. I’ve been embroidering every day since the start of the year, but I have also been trying to add in some other daily stitching–knitting, crochet, hand sewing…anything to give me a moment of creative peace as I finish out my day.

How about you? What rituals, habits, practices do you find yourself enjoying?

Three on Thursday: February Love Edition

Blooms in the yard.

There’s so much to love about February: my sister and I celebrate our birthdays, the slog to spring seems manageable, the extra minutes of daylight finally seem to make a true difference. And since it’s Three on Thursday time, here are three more things to love in February:

  1. This weekend is the Great Backyard Bird Count! Citizen science rocks my world, and this is one of my favorite activities to support science!
  2. Our witch hazel is blooming–the first flowers of the year in our yard.
  3. The extra day this year (and month) falls on a Saturday, which has led me to declare Leap Day is going to be a day to explore things I rarely make time for, especially smack dab in the middle of the semester. I’ve got some plans cookin’!

What are you loving in February? What (and who) ever you’re loving, I hope you have a festive Valentine’s Day and terrific weekend!

Three on Thursday: Stitchy Edition

I made yarn on a spindle!

I can’t resist the fun that is Three on Thursday! Here’s my Getting Stitchy edition:

  1. I took a spindle spinning class with Marce Smith at VK Live in NYC last month. Even though I started out spinning on a spindle at my first class at Village Wools (RIP) ca. 2005, and despite having a very small and lovely collection of Bosworth and Golding spindles, I never really took to spindle spinning. Now, though, I think it’s finally taken! Kirsten advised me to spin 10 minutes a day, and while I’ve missed a few days, that consistent practice really makes a difference.
  2. I’m taking a class at my LYS, Marji’s Yarncrafts, on the Cocoknits method. I’m making a lopi Emma pullover at the same gauge as my Stopover. I had to rip out my first start, but I’m knitting away on the yoke now! I can’t wait to try her on and see how those shoulders fit!
  3. I have my second year-long embroidery project going. Every day I do a little stitching. You can follow my progress on Insta!

What’s new in your stitching world?

New Year, New Planner

Meet my new notebook!

Six years ago, I started bullet journaling. I’ve tested out other planner systems, but I always return to it, or at least to my mashed up version. Recently I decided to house my bullet journal in a discbound system, which is what I use for my Tarot notebook. I like the discbound system’s flexibility, and since I can no longer fit a full year in my trusty grid-paper Moleskine, I decided to find a notebook that I would use for years to come.

Reader, forgive me for sending you down this (somewhat pricey) rabbit hole. I have been eyeing William Hannah notebooks for a couple of years. I made the justifications about why an expensive notebook would be worth the splurge, as one does, and in December, after saving up my pin money, I purchased.

I’m now the delighted owner of an A5 Whiskey and Kingfisher notebook. The quality is outstanding, including the quality of the paper and dividers I purchased. I love writing in this notebook, and I am thrilled that I can move pages around to suit. In fact, it’s renewed my use of fountain pens, and I had a fun afternoon cleaning and inking two Lamy Safaris (extra fine nibs if you’re interested) languishing in my pen box.

Would you like to see it in action? Check out this little video I made!

If, like me, you enjoy writing by hand, need more flexibility in your planner and are willing to pay for high quality, you might put a William Hannah notebook on your investment list.

#100 Days of Finishing

I had lots of ideas for this year’s 100 Day Project, and the one I settled on comes straight from Cal Patch‘s book: 100 Days of Finishing Stitches (link will take you to my Instagram hashtag–follow along!). I have a LOT of projects (knit, crochet, sewn) that have stalled out over the years, and I decided it’s time to get a few of them finished. Some require only a few pesky seams or a fixed cable (I’m looking at you, knitting), while others cry out for sustained stitching time. Every one of them has a story–why I wanted to make the thing in the first place…why I put it down…why I want to finish it. Here’s the first story.

While staying with my pal Kirsten, I saw her hexagon pincushion crocheted in DMC perle cotton 5. Right up my alley–crochet, lots of color choices, practical, and pretty.

Then, in March 2016, Neal and I received the sad news that our dear friend Kurt had died. Too young, of course. We were devastated as one is at such moments. I came home from work the day after we got the news and, at a loss of what to do on a sunny early spring day when grief wound around me, I picked up my hook and some perle cotton. The pattern was no longer available, so I looked up a few hexies and mashed up my own pattern. Crochet was my first craft, and it’s the one that I turn to for comfort.

The first hexie I made was tiny, so I played around in those pretty spring yellows and pinks and greens until I got a size I liked. And I made hexies for days. The rhythm of hooking gave me time and space to sit in quiet, to think about Kurt, to allow myself to grieve.

And then, once I had eight hexies, I put them down. I wasn’t sure how to join (though now I see that the original pattern has you joining as you go–clever!), and I didn’t know what to stuff it with (I’ve since picked up a bag of nut shells that make a perfect pincushion center). So the parts sat in their decidedly unglamorous ziplock bag. Over the last three years, I’d see them and tell myself I’d finish that pincushion before the next anniversary of losing Kurt.

But I didn’t.

Until this year. It took me 13 days of stitching just a little bit every night. I made a muslin insert with nut shells, then a wool felt insert to put it in. I added some of dear Jani’s Starcroft felting wool for added robustness. And now the pincushion is done.

It will have a place of honor in my sewing room. I’ll think of Kurt with fondness when I use it. I’ll think of how stitching heals. I’ll think of friendship.

The trick now? Deciding what project is next! Stay tuned!

The Making of a Party Dress

The making of a party dress.

In February I turned 50. My family threw me a terrific party–the best birthday party of my life! But months before the party took shape, I decided I wanted a magical dress to wear to celebrate the turning of a new decade.

I had a vision. Not a terribly original vision, but it was mine. And I couldn’t find a pattern for it. But I found fabrics (on sale around the winter holidays, natch!), and Kirsten reassured me about the amounts to order. Here’s what I purchased: Silk noil, silk crepe de chine, half a million yards of black tulle, and the fabric that started it all– Zodiac embroidered tulle

So, I did what any self-respecting barely-intermediate sewing-ista (honestly, what word do we use? Sewer looks gross on the page, and do we like sewist? IDK!) would do: I mashed up what I (mostly) knew how to make.

With the guidance of dress doula Sarah of Hartford Stitch, I cropped and took in the bodice of Grainline Studio’s Uniform Tunic and drafted a circle skirt with help from this website (Sarah promised me she’d make a more detailed tutorial, which I’ll be sure to share when she’s got it ready.) There was machine sewing. There was serging. There was hand basting. There was installing an invisible zipper. There was hand stitching. There may still be hemming of the silk underskirt that didn’t get finished before party time, but let’s not talk about that.

This dress stretched my skills. I made mistakes that I won’t (knock wood) make again. I learned techniques I can’t wait to use over and over. This dress was pretty much what I wanted it to be. I felt like a magical creature in it, and I may have sat down way more than necessary just to feel the swoosh of all that tulle (7 layers) as I did.

Maybe you’ve heard of frosting sewing? Well, this was my first bit of frosting. I can’t wait to try my hand at it again!

#100dayproject

You know I love a project, right? For the past few years, I’ve taken on daily projects: the 2015 Postcard Project, in which I created and mailed 365 postcards around the world; the 2017 Stitch-a-Day Project, which had me embroidering a free-form sampler every day; my 2018 Remarkable People Project, where I’m drawing (on a postcard, natch) and reading about someone remarkable every day.

Starting on April 3, I’m embarking on a shorter-term project as part of the awesome #100dayproject movement. I’m calling it 100 Unconstrained Days. Each day, I’ll look for an image or idea that represents “unconstrained” to me, and I’ll translate it into a sketch. I’m so used to working on postcards that I’ve considered using them, but I probably will vary materials a bit more. I’ve been doing some work to free myself from some constraints I feel, and I’m excited to see how this helps me. Art therapy for the win!

Are you participating? If so, let me know how to find you on Instagram. I’ll be using the hashtag #100unconstraineddays and hope you check it out!