What’s an Arid?

The next patterns from my group of October releases are two that come from the same source. I call these Arid and Arid Supersized

When scrolling through the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s website one day, I came across an item in the collection that just drew me in:

The description called it an arid and said that this was a Moroccan hanging. I loved the geometry of this design and began to play with the idea of translating it to a cross stitch pattern. I started with the smallest motif in the center, made it as small as possible, and then worked outward from there, keeping all parts in proportion to the original.

The end result was a huge pattern – 471 x 471 stitches.

Feeling like that was a little too big, I focused on the more central area and realized that it could be a beautiful design on its own. Not to mention a little more manageable. I decided to also keep the first version, releasing it under the title of Arid Supersized, just to see who might be interested.

As you look at the pictures, yes, they would be full coverage pieces. However, you could stitch on red fabric and definitely save yourself a lot of stitches. Or, frankly, change the colors to suit yourself.

I hope that learning the back story of this design sparks some inspiration in yourself!

Arid as a paper pattern can be found here

Arid as a pdf download can be found here

Arid Supersized as a paper pattern can be found here

Arid Supersized as a pdf download can be found here

New Releases – Hanukkah Designs

I’m excited to share with all of you my new patterns for October. I’ll spread this out over three blog posts, but if you are both curious and impatient you can head to my Etsy store to see them all. I just love sharing back stories, when they exist, and this blog is one of the ways to do so.

First up are my two Hanukkah designs – Hanukkah Star and Menorah Duo.

Hanukkah Star
Menorah in Blackwork
Menorah in Cross Stitch

Christmas patterns are plentiful and for good reason – it is a time of year when many decorate their homes and their trees. Ornaments are a very popular finish and many are proud of their hand stitched items that come out from storage during this time of year.

As someone who grew up Jewish, I’m well aware that there aren’t that many cross stitch patterns to play with. While Hanukkah is not as big of a holiday as Christmas, it doesn’t mean that there aren’t stitchers out there looking for patterns at this time of year. So, as I did last year, I created two…well three.

Hanukkah star shows off my love of geometry in designs. A meandering path that might look like it goes around back to the beginning, but really is made up of three different paths. I stitched the model for this using DMC Etoile thread for an extra bit of sparkle.

As for Menorah Duo, it started with the idea of making a blackwork pattern of a menorah. The easiest way for me to do this was to chart out the basic outline of a cross stitch menorah and then convert those outlines into the straight stitches of blackwork. Along the way, I began thinking…”why not make two of them?” It takes into account those who love to stick with cross stitch only as well as those who like to explore and do something different. For both of these, I used the same Gentle Arts threads (Blueberry and Gold Leaf) and Mill Hill beads for the candle flames. Both patterns are packaged together as Menorah Duo.d

I finished all three of these as little pillows, as dough bowls for display are quite popular these days. But, so much can be done with smalls like this. I know there are some out there that have a Hanukkah “bush” – some sort of way to display Jewish ornaments.

However you chose to use them, I hope they bring a smile to your face!

Hanukkah Star as a paper pattern can be found here

Hanukkah Star as a pdf download can be found here

Menorah Duo as a paper pattern can be found here

Menorah Duo as a pdf download can be found here

Temari

I’m not sure where I first heard about or saw temari. But a few years back, I, for short time, became obsessed.

Temari balls have their origin story in Japan, although have certainly spread throughout the world. This website will give you plenty of information and lots of beautiful photos if you are interested in going down a rabbit hole.

At the time, I acquired some books, watched some videos, purchased some basic supplies and off I went. At the center of a temari is a styrofoam ball covered in yarn that has been wrapped around it. On top of the yarn, you wrap another layer, this one of threads (sewing thread). If I’m remembering correctly, it takes nearly an entire spool of thread to sufficiently cover the yarn.

Then the fun begins!

The designs, mostly geometric in nature, seem to have endless variations. There’s a bit of math as you are marking your temari with pins, which are also used as support in some cases. The threads used on top can vary: I know I mostly was using DMC Perle 5 and that was really because it was a thread that was the right width/size and that I could easily get my hands on (i.e. buy at Michaels). But, in a couple of cases, I played with some other threads besides this perle.

Here are some of the temari I still have in my possession. There were also a handful that I made and gave away as gifts.

This one with was the others, clearly a temari that I began and then abandoned. I’m sharing here for you to see more clearly the wraps of thread and the beginning of planning the design. Note the use of pins for marking where the base thread needs to go.

Not surprisingly, there are a few books about temari on my bookshelf.

For those who love working with needle in hand and are interested in simply trying something different, I suggest you look into temari.

My First Cross Stitch

I know I mused about this a couple of blog posts ago: “have I shared the story of how I began to cross stitch?” I don’t think I have, so it’s as good of time as any to do so today.

Some years ago, I entered a contest (I didn’t win anything) where you had to write a “stitching story or experience” with a strict word limit. I chose to share this story, and, well, since I already have it written, why not just share it here with all of you?:


(this picture is at an angle because of the glare on the glass)

I was 15 and fate brought the magazine to my family’s mailbox.  Cross Stitch & Country Crafts was the title and it was a sampler issue, sent to encourage a subscription.  At that time, and to this day, I have no idea how my name (MY name, not my mom’s, not a generic “to whom it may concern) got on this mailing list.  No one in my family was a stitcher.  

This was sent to me as a “Sample Issue.” I have come to learn that this little girl was featured in a regular issue of the magazine.

This magazine had the most enchanting image I had ever seen – a little girl, having a tea party with her dolls.  I could not believe that such detail could be created with thread.  I was enthralled and, despite my very limited experience with cross stitch, decided I wanted to create this.  

Some time later, I was able to get my mom to drive me to the craft store, where at least I knew enough to recognize that the numbers on the chart’s key represented colors of DMC floss.  The idea that I was picking out nearly 50 different colors to use was unbelievable.  My mom saw the pile of threads growing as I sat there on the floor of the store and gave a look.  I knew how to interpret that look.  I can so clearly remember responding, “Mom, I’m using my babysitting money to pay for this.  I not asking you for the money.”  Her response back?  “I don’t know why.  You are never going to finish that.”

In all fairness, her comment was reasonable.  I think I did have, at that time, the reputation in my family of not necessarily finishing some of the projects I started.  Or being rather enthusiastic about a particular toy or particular project that I begged a parent to buy only to abandon both the project and enthusiasm in a short time.  Something about this was different, though.

I stitched her. Finished her. Framed her (professional framing paid with my own babysitting money).

That little girl lived in my mind and my heart and my hands for months. Twenty-five years later, she still hangs on my wall.  My needlework passions have stretched in many directions beyond cross stitch, but that little girl in the blue dress was clearly my beginning.  To this day, when I encounter certain DMC floss colors, I know where I first learned them:  926 and 927 on her dress, 676 and 677 and others in her hair, the 758 that I had to restitch three times in her arm…I could go on.  

So much of my personal stitching history hangs on my walls. This little girl is a piece of that.

Stitch Palettes

Are you familiar with Stitchpalettes.com? If you have any interest in color, especially as a stitcher, you should get to know this website!

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This website is the creation of Krisztina, a woman that lives “in a beautiful and wild part of Europe” (her words). When it was mentioned to me in passing by a fellow stitcher, I was certainly intrigued. When I went to the site itself to check it out, I was enthralled.

On a regular basis, there is a post (on her website, Facebook, and Instagram) of a picture with six DMC colors pulled from it. For example, here are a few recent ones:

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Not only are these beautiful eye candy, they are certainly a source of inspiration for me as a designer. Numerable color palettes just waiting to be brought to life.

When you click on any picture, you are brought to a page with more details, including various thread conversions and suggestions of palettes with similar colors.

She recently announced a new edition to her website – the Palette Generator. You put in a DMC number and you will then be shown all sorts of color options: monochromatic color schemes, complementary color schemes, triadic and tetradic color schemes – a whole color theory lesson, in fact. Give it a try using your favorite DMC color.

It is absolutely fantastic to have this website as a stitcher. In many ways, DMC colors and numbers are a common language for so many of us, not only stitchers, but fabric and thread dyers as well. Krisztina has given us such a gift with this website.

Go check it out and follow her on social media!

Crafting During the Pandemic

You may have already seen this article from April, but I figured it was worth sharing.

Titled “How Crafting Can Help Ease Pandemic Anxiety,” it says what I know just about all stitchers already know. The work we do with our hands is so very important to us as individuals on so many different levels.

The author writes:

“I’ve turned to old-fashioned crafts in recent weeks to calm my anxieties, to hold something tangible in my hands and my thoughts while uncertainty swirls around me. “

I will, of course, argue with her adjective of “old-fashioned” since what we do, whether it be stitching or quilting or knitting (what she mentions most), are most certainly fresh and relevant and important in the present, not just a relic of the past. That said, for an article trying to explain the feelings and the desire to create to a larger audience, she makes all the right points. While we don’t need a pandemic to know this, I think all stitchers find a comfort in their work on a daily basis. For some, it is an escape; others call it something closer to meditation.

She ends with this:

“Above all, they show creation. To crochet, or to knit, or to block out an image in cross-stitch or needlepoint, is both to make something and to make sense of it, turning a slack piece of string into something with recognizable function and form. All of us amateur crafters alone in our rooms are filling our empty spaces, each shaping a single tenuous strand into something with strength and body. We are making something lasting out of solitude.”

Indeed.

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When and How Did You Learn to Stitch?

Okay, so that title is a loaded question and one that could take hours to answer.

But I am bringing up the topic simply because it is related to my previous post about the Winterthur Needlework Conference.

(A side note: in that post, I mentioned that the furniture conference, also planned to be held in October, was canceled. It certainly looked that way when I looked at the Winterthur website the day I was writing that post. However, I just got an email and have rechecked the website, which has been updated – they are indeed hosting a virtual furniture conference as well. In case you are interested, here is the page of all the details.)

When I attended my first Winterthur needlework conference, I remember clearly a little moment. It was the first speaker after lunch, although I have no memory of who this person was or the topic she was speaking on. She began by saying something like:

“I was having this fascinating conversation over lunch and I would like to just mention it here. First of all, just indulge me. Raise your hands if you yourself stitch, needlework of any kind. Now, keep your hands up if you were taught by a female relative – mom, grandma, etc.”

It was so interesting to look around the lecture hall. About 200 attendees and I would say about 80% of the hands were up for the first question. That alone was a fascinating fact – that not everyone who attends a needlework conference is a stitcher. As I had some conversations with attendees over those two days, I came to learn that there were many academics and scholars there. In some cases, while their intellectual work might be associated with needlework and embroidery – an archivist or a historian, for example – it did not mean that they took that interest into practicing form, into actually stitching and doing needlework of their own.

And then, the second question. I would say about 90% of the hands that were up for the first question remained up for the second. That, apparently, was the focus of the lunchtime conversation – that the practice and love of needlework is most often passed down through the female relatives. It certainly makes sense. The speaker spent a few minutes ruminating on this before beginning her actual talk.

I can say, however, that I was one of the small percentage that put my hand down after the first question. While my mom did some crocheting as I was growing up, I wouldn’t exactly call it a passion in her life. It was a hobby which she every so often gave some time towards. And, frankly, it was never anything I was interested in.

When I was in high school, I discovered cross stitch. (I’ve just checked and I see that I have not written out that story in a blog – need to do that at some point!) After cross stitching being my focus for many years through college and a little beyond, I discovered that there was a whole world of stitching beyond just making X’s. Don’t get me wrong, I like making X’s a lot – but I also love canvas work and blackwork and Hardanger and everything else I have explored.

So, here I am, a case of a stitcher who did not inherit the skills or the interest from anyone really. No grandmas or aunts ever really in the picture. It does make me think, though, about those who have been taught or inspired by a female relative. How lucky they are to have the relationship and connection.

A very interesting topic to explore – how did you become a stitcher?

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Winterthur Virtual Needlework Conference

I’ve written about Winterthur before – see the Threads of History post I did about a year and a half ago. In Delaware, it is the home, museum, and gardens of Henry Francis Dupont, opened to the public about 60 years ago. If you are interested in learning more, I suggest checking out http://www.winterthur.org/visit/about-winterthur/

About a two hour drive from me, it is simply a wonderful place to visit, especially when there is a special exhibit that I am interested in seeing. The grounds are beautiful and so worth taking the time to walk and explore treasures everywhere. I love, love, love that they have a library there that is not only open to the public, but that has open stacks. Given the collecting interests of first Mr. Dupont and then the museum itself, there are many books on the decorative arts, including needlework and lace.

I know exactly when I learned about Winterthur (well, let’s say sort of exactly when 🙂 ) Some years back (I *think* it was 2011), I saw postings/advertisements for a Needlework Conference at Winterthur. What is this place? What does a Needlework Conference even mean? I came to learn that it was in Delaware, a very reasonable drive to me in New Jersey. I read the description of what would go on during those two days – a combination of full group lectures and small group sessions – and I thought, “wow.” It was and is an academic-like gathering of people from across the spectrum of needlework for a learning experience. While some of the small group sessions were indeed working on a needlework project (many seem to be reproductions of some of the samplers/pieces in Winterthur’s collection), the focus was more of intellectual and historical conversation and connection. I was intrigued.

I signed up that year and had a marvelous time – learned so very much. I came to know that Winterthur had a conference like this every 2-3 years in the fall. (They also do something similar for furniture making and a third one of another topic that I can’t seem to think of in this moment.) I was thrilled to attend again in 2016.

I think some time in January or so, I received a “save the date” email about the 2020 conference and I thought, “hmmm…maybe I’ll try to go again.” Well, then, we all know what happened – COVID. In this past week, I’ve come to learn that they are still going forward with a needlework conference in October and doing it virtually. (It seems like their furniture conference has been out and out canceled. If I am remembering correctly, the needlework one had the largest attendance – about 200 people.)

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Here is the page to see all the details: http://www.winterthur.org/education/adult/conferences/the-inspired-needle-embroidery-past-and-present/ If you are into historical aspects of the needlework – yes, samplers, but more than that – you might want to take a good look at the lectures and offerings. I know that I am excited to take part. Obviously, not as good as being in person with others who share you interest and enthusiasm, but still a great opportunity to learn lots.

And, when the world rights itself again and you happen to be in the vicinity, go check out Winterthur. It’s a fabulous place to visit.

August’s Feature Artist on Reddit

Are you familiar with Reddit?  I know I became aware of its existence a couple of years ago and went to check it out, understanding that it was another platform to reach out to those with similar interests to me.  That said, while I created an account, I hadn’t really learned much about it until I came to know someone who was very involved and into using it as a source of connection and interaction with others.

Reddit is “a massive collection of forums where people can share news and content or comment on other people’s post.”  I found this page to be extremely useful in understanding the basics. According to this article, Reddit is the 6th most popular website in America.  (Can you guess the five above it?  I did pretty well before checking:  Google, Youtube, Amazon, Yahoo, and Facebook.)

What subreddits – i.e. groups – to join?  Well, check out the Cross Stitch subreddit.  It’s home page shows that there are 155,000 members.  Yes.  That’s a lot of stitchers.

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While I’ve made reference to the wonderful online community of stitchers that I’ve been a part of for the last few years, I fully admit my online community world was Flosstube, Facebook, and Instagram.  I had not opened the door to Reddit.

The moderators of the Cross Stitch subreddit do a fantastic job of organizing events and activities for the group and, of course, there is tons of eye candy in the form of pictures of current project in the discussion.  I was honored when I was approached to be the August Feature Artist of the Month.  Super cool!

If you already have a Reddit account or if you join at this time, simply search for Cross Stitch and then join that subreddit – basically the equivalent of joining a Facebook Group on stitching, if you are more familiar with that platform.  Once there, you’ll see at the top an announcement about the Featured Artist of the Month, a little interview with me, and a link to a freebie pattern I’ve created.

I’ve joined a few other subreddits (so many options worth exploring!) and I can admit that this platform is certainly another way to go down a rabbit hole of endless entertainment, knowledge, and connection.

Check it out for yourself!  http://www.reddit.com

Heirloom Lace

For the most part, I am a one-project-at-a-time kind of stitcher.  A few exceptions here and there, but it is basically what works for me.

Way back here, I shared with you the beginning of a major project.  Thanks to these months of more-staying-at-home-than-usual, it is now a finish.  Began on February 29th and finished on June 1st, I present to you all my newest design, which I have called Heirloom Lace.

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This piece, as with most of my other lace cross stitch designs, is indeed based on an actual piece of lace.  That piece had some striking effects of light and dark and I brainstormed a bit in thinking about how to replicate them in a cross stitch design.  I have created a couple of patterns using variations of strands of floss and this absolutely could have been a direction to go.  Instead, I decided to give a try to a thread that has been talked about a lot recently, particularly on Fibertalk – Floche.  It is a DMC thread, not super common here in the US, but certainly not impossible to find either.  It has a beautiful soft sheen and a strand is about equal to 1 1/2 to 2 strands of floss.  The numbers are the same as DMC floss numbers (although I don’t think floche is available in all the floss colors).

I chose to use floche on the main areas with full crosses. On the “lighter” areas, I used one strand of floss, in a tent stitch. This gave a beautiful contrast. Both threads were DMC 712 – a light ecru, just slightly off white.  I worked this piece on 36 count linen, my choice being a Silkweaver linen in the color Crushed Cranberries. Of course, this design truly lends itself to being done in any color combination of fabric and thread.

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What can I say? I was so pleased and grateful to have a project in these last few months that completely captured my attention and kept me focused exactly when I needed my stitching the most.

If you are interested, you can purchase the pattern to Heirloom lace on my Etsy store.  The paper copy can be found  here  and the pdf copy can be found here.