WIP LARGE – Mirabilia’s "Enchanted Mermaid"

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This is my (reboot) newest gigantic WIP.  Mirabilia’s “Enchanted Mermaid”.  I started it in Spring, 2012 but really didn’t work on it over the summer, well, because it was summer!  This is my second attempted Mirabilia piece.  The first was “Winter Queen” but I abandoned it.  The reason I gave up was that I was still more of a novice back then but have built up more experience and confidence leading up to this pattern.  This one, though, I cannot wait to see finished with all of the fancy treasure beads and seed beads, etc.  I dyed the fabric but really kept it super light though….I was afraid of ruining it.  Since I am back in University full time now, I can only limit my cross stitch time while I am listening to audiobooks for school to maximize my time.

Completed Cross Stitch – “Wicked Night” by Isabella Abbiati for The Primitive Hare

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This piece is stitched on a 28-count Ivory-coloured Lugana cloth, dyed with Dylon’s Velvet Black and stitched with one thread over one.  The dyed piece’s dappled effect reminded me of the moon’s surface at a magnified level and I found the pattern to match after the dye experiment.

If you are not entirely familiar with your different cloth types for stitching just yet, Lugana cloth is an evenweave fabric.  Evenweave looks like a piece of graph paper and Lugana is a smaller version of Aida cloth, which is a larger evenweave.  The nice thing about working with an evenweave fabric is that it provides an easier way to count your stitching against the pattern, allow for overall stress-free stitch placement, and nice uniformity.

What makes Lugana different than Aida is not only the size difference (Aida is typically 14, 16, 18, or 22) and Lugana has a higher count such as 25 or 28 but there is also a texture and dye-ability difference which I will get into in a bit.

But what do all these numbers mean?  Well, just like your computer monitor or TV, the more squares or dots per inch means a higher or stronger resolution and the less squares per inch means, well, it looks more blocky the bigger it gets (Minecraft is a good model).  Think of micro (small) vs. macro (big).  So, for example, in this piece there are 28 stitches per one inch.  The pattern size is 77H x 163W.  H = height and W = width.

By doing a little math, you can figure out how big or small your work will be.  For example, let’s divide 77 into 28 and 163 into 28.  Remember we are still working in inches, so the design will be 2.75”H and 5.82”W on a piece of 28-count Lugana cloth.  The size of the cloth I am using is 5” x 14” which is important to know as you need to have an extra few inches around your design.  If you don’t have a few extra inches of fabric around your design, you run the risk of it unravelling or making it hard to stitch and/or frame.  See how it works?  It’s called scalability.

Getting back to the graph paper example, it would translate to 28 squares per inch and in the case of a TV or computer monitor 28 dots or pixels per inch (dpi or ppi).

So, why isn’t there an Aida cloth that has a 25 or 28 count then?  It’s the ingredients used to make the cloth.  Aida is made out of 100% cotton which is of course good right?  It is but only to a degree.  The cotton fibers are too large to work with after a 22-count and the evenweave openings look more like pinholes instead of uniform squares making it very difficult to work with as far as stitching may go.

In order to get around this problem, Lugana cloth reduces the amount of the cotton blend and increases an intermingling of part viscose rayon.  The combination is roughly a 50/50 split give or take a 1%-2% difference between the blends.  Viscose is plant fiber and viscous rayon is plant fiber that goes through an additional chemical process to smooth out the fibers a bit more.  With smoother and more refined fiber, smaller weaves can be achieved.  The overall texture between Lugana and Aida is smoother/flatter versus slightly coarser and raised fibers respectively.

As you may have already guessed, plant fiber and cotton fiber absorb water and/or dye differently which definitely has an impact on your specific or experimental dye job of creating artistic-looking cloth for the background of your work.  Cotton will absorb liquid more quickly and rayon will slightly repel liquid before absorption.  Picking out the right cloth is a combination of personal preference and technical requirement for the piece you wish to wonderfully create and both fabrics are lovely to work with in their own special way.

Completed Cross Stitch – “Seasonal Fantasies – Autumn” by Katrina Farabaugh

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As a few of us begin to move from the Spring of our lives into the next season, sometimes we just start to…change and change without prior warning.  Hey!  What’s up with that???

Now you may or may not be thinking that this solely relates to age but I believe that there could be more.

Maybe the ‘more’ is a cross-pollination of thoughts and ideas made from your own eye and ear observations, or others’ opinions massaging and assaulting you, or your own positive and negative experiences producing a different hybrid flowering of your own perceptions.

Or how about this: it is the accumulation of life struggles that instead looks like a savings account built by pennies of experience locked away somewhere to be drawn from at a later and more convenient time.

But if you’re more favourable to the maturity thing, I know I’ve come across several people younger and older than me that are more insightful than someone double in age from me or themselves.

It’s fascinating what triggers a transitional shift that touches off a new period of where we think we are and where we believe we are going.

Where are you in your life right now?  No, seriously, where ARE you?

Me?  It appears that my life is taking shape based on the late Charles Bukowski’s prose.  I recently withdrew my application from a potential government-based position after 14 weeks into the process and remain on the cusp of finishing my degree and have 5 courses left (one full-time term).  Five doesn’t sound like a lot but please believe me when I say it’s the equivalent of two full-time jobs (and without pay).

Since making the firm decision of going back to university FT in 2012, please believe me when I tell you that I hit every xylophone bar of different emotions between the academic process and the strain of sacrifice for the illusion or real security of a greater good.

The range moved back and forth from happiness, satisfaction, frustration, exasperation, feeling fed up/beat up, renewed, defeated, broken, healed, “jailed” and “on parole” (from school terms of course and not the penal system), feeling successful, feeling like a failure, satisfied, scared, euphoric, depressed, feeling invisible to feeling seen and recognized, losing self-esteem, gaining insight, and all at the same time it’s as if I ran a marathon while standing still for the last few years.

During school, I lost one of my pets due to long-term illness, and for a while almost lost a parent too for similar reasons.  No amount of care, compassion, or support will ever completely stall the status of someone’s else life or death situation.  It’s a different season that sits just outside the regular calendar (for all of us I guess..).

So maybe you’re in the same situation as me where you may be parachuting down from some remote point and the ground is now coming into focus but are unsure which direction you should head into once you land.

After school is complete I would love to move somewhere new and start a unique and different life (been researching 1-2 states in particular).  It seems that I have already done and experienced everything I can where I am now.

However,  I have never been much of a mover from home to home (no really, I should change my name to Stonehenge ha ha).  I feel terrified to make a huge change on my own  and yet all the while worry about the regret from letting fear take the lead keeping my life on ice and do nothing.

Have you ever felt this way?  Do you know anyone with or without regrets over life changes?  Is there anything that makes you feel fearful that you want to get past?

A small note about the cross stitch, I dyed the linen piece with green, yellow, and blue RIT dye using brush strokes and the fabric count is between 28-32 pt.

Completed Cross Stitch – Lanarte’s “Art Nouveau” by Mucha-primrose

Completed Mucha Primrose - May 27-15

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Alfonse Mucha is probably one of the most recognized Art Nouveau artists out there and has yet to be surpassed. Originally from the Czech Republic he lived from 1860-1939 and left behind a legacy of organically-styled paintings made for commercial advertising.

His neoclassical look takes on a slightly ethereal style using long-haired females with shapely figures, flowing hair, billowing fabric and sensual flowers. Mucha’s feminine elements make his work ever so softly enchanting and also seems to draw in the viewer’s eyes into a fantastical world that only appears to exist for only for the briefest moment you are looking at the picture. His work is currently showcased in Prague at the Baroque Kaunický Palace. I have not been there and since I love Mucha’s work so much I hope to visit there one day soon. Are you an art gallery type of gal or guy? How many different places have you been to or are you overdue for a little culture and diversity?

As far as fine art, I’ve been to the AGO in Toronto, ON; MOMA in NYC, NY; the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, GA; the Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg; FL and have seen M.C. Esher’s work in Acton, OH during a tour.  I’m sure I’m missing a few from this list.

As much as I love art and art galleries, and it would be awesome to visit them all I’d like to also make a personal pilgrimage to every planetarium out there.  Planetariums seem to give more of an overall visual and audio experience than just a viewing experience (I mean, c’mon hey, there is only so much staring at paintings and sculptures one can do in a day right?) Visiting the Strasenburgh Planetarium was one of my best childhood memories growing up and I was very sad that Toronto closed the McLaughlin Planetarium many, many years ago. But I digress…..

Here is a little trivia for you: if you have watched or still watch the sitcom “Three’s Company” from the 80s, there are a total of 3 Mucha paintings in the apartment (but only 2 are visible in the majority of the episodes and the third is…well, guess you’ll have to keep an eye out won’t you?).  Do you know the name of the British sitcom that “Three’s Company” is based on?  And….can you spot the Muchas? :o)

About the cross stitch:  The fabric is 28-count white evenweave and the finished size is 9.45” x 23.62” and is part of Lanarte’s Classic Collection kit including all threads and one needle.

Completed Cross Stitch – Karen Marie Zabroski’s “Seaside Cottages” for Sunset/Dimensions

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Key West, Bahamas, opening scene (of Malibu) on Two and A Half Men as well as the lilting song spot of “By The Sea” in the movie Sweeney Todd.  All of the aforementioned scenes features glimpses of cute cottages or handsome homes near the ocean front.  Although in reality, it would be nice to own 11 islands like the magician David Copperfield and have as many fun sand huts as I want but, for now, this is all I can manage at the moment LOL :-)

What is really nice about this piece is that it captures the essence of the sun, sand and breeze with no hint of corporate, clock-driven, hectic “fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants” schedule and so far I have not found anything “too” about it.

You’ve heard of the art form of “too-ism” right?  No?  Sure you have…”It’s too hot outside”…”I’m too full”…”She’s too (?)”…”He’s too (?)”…”It’s too spicy”…”Oh, I don’t do it too often”…”It’s too expensive”…”School’s too hard”…”The mountain’s too high”…etc. (Maybe that’s why the game show “The Price is Right” has lasted beyond Bob Barker?)

Seriously though, it seems (to me) that if anything is “too” in either a minimizing or maximizing fashion we seem to re-direct our attention towards something or someone that is not “too” much of anything in order to seek a comfortable equilibrium (with the exception of excess and pleasure until the after-effects kick in and the “too” cycle starts all over again).  We’ve alllllll been there! :-)

So, as I was saying, this cross stitch project isn’t too hard or too difficult and despite that it is a larger piece, it has been very enjoyable to work on (with the exception of the time that I ripped out a lot of correct stitches that I miscounted as a result of being too tired…yeah, that realization wasn’t pretty :0))

The finished piece will be 18″ x 7″ on 14-count white cotton Aida (22″ x 11″).  This is a kit, so all of the floss is provided along with an organizer and two needles.  One for stitching and one for couching.  What’s couching?  Just fancy stitching on top of already fancy stitching for artistic effect.

As this work develops, you may notice a few details such as the light source (of the sun) seems to be of late afternoon (maybe 2-4 p.m.?) with a gentle wind travelling from west to east that you’ll see compliment the direction of the sailboats, flying kite and swaying grasses.

Completed Cross Stitch – Rose Calton’s “Pig Pals” for Leisure Arts

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Are pigs really that big of a deal around here?  Like with March 1st coming up and being National Pig Day (USA midwest) and all….

While I think about March 1st and why it has been declared a National Pig Day, I will have to piggyback this idea off of another while I put my pigs in a blanket in the oven.

I wonder if my friend will like his birthday present of “101 Manly Uses for Bacon”?  I put his present down next to my books of George Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm’, E.B. White’s ‘Charlotte’s Web’ and ‘The Three Little Pigs’ to wrap up and send to him a little later.

As I sit at the kitchen table and sip my coffee, I watch the neighbour’s boys toss around the pigskin for a while. Then I go into the other room and turn on the TV for a bit and see all of Jerry Springer’s guests hurl pig-phrased obscenities at each other for about a minute (which is all I can stand).

Maybe I should clean up the house so it doesn’t look like a pig sty even though I’d be happier than a pig in sh*t if I didn’t and just sat around and ate like a pig though.  Ah, so what if I become fat as a pig?  Later, I’ll just become a guinea pig and try a new diet next month or something.

What’s that loud noise outside?  Oh, it’s just someone on their HOG driving by, I guess that person is living pretty high off the hog if they can afford a motorcycle like a Harley Davidson.  Meh, hogwash, those motorcycles aren’t that expensive I guess.

My friend ‘so-and-so’ is calling me and she tells me about squealing on her friend at school while she confesses that it’s all really just hog slop.  She says she has to go because she has to play a DVD for her kid about Winnie the Pooh and his pal Piglet. We finish talking and after the baking is done I decide to go hog wild and buy up a lot of left over chocolate from Valentine’s Day.  I changed into my Miss Piggy/Muppets sweater then put my hair up into pigtails and got into the car.

While I’m driving to the store, I start to think about “This little piggy went to market…”  I’m sitting at the light and I look over and see another car’s passenger hamming it up by telling some animated story to her driver.  I drive past a billboard promoting the movie Babe with the phrase in bold letters “That’ll do pig, that’ll do.”

After shopping, I’m waiting in line and take out my cell phone to watch some old Looney Tunes cartoons with Porky Pig.  And of course, like a pig in a poke I give in to a few temptations of buying some magazines without really flipping through them first. As I leave the store I thought about that outfit I saw but thought if I bought it, it would make me look like I was making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear because it wasn’t my style.

As I’m driving home, there is a lot of traffic because of road hogs and I wanted to change into another lane but the other driver wouldn’t let me in and let me know it by yelling out “in a pig’s eye!”

Once home, I put my spare change in my piggy bank and see my boyfriend is completely hogging the couch because he has a touch of the swine flu and is tired from bringing home the bacon.  I’m wearing a sweater that is too hot so I’m sweating like a pig and take it off and after sitting down I realize that I just cannot figure out why March 1st is National Pig Day.  Maybe when pigs fly it will come to me.

This cross stitch was made on 14-count Aida cloth and dyed with black RIT dye and bleach washes to lighten the fabric.

Completed Cross Stitch – Luli’s “Stella”

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First, I just wanted to take the time to thank you.  You, yes you, sitting there right now reading this–you are awesome!  Thank you for all of your kind words, support, encouragement and whether we have exchanged any words or not, I appreciate your precious time that you take to look at the completed cross stitch pictures and WIPs on this blog.

Thank you for being here.

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We all need something to look up to don’t we?

For some it is hope, for some it is a special person or even someone looking up to their own reflection in the mirror and being either his or her own best inspiration.

I could not tell you the last time I just literally looked up and kept my head up to look up and around.  Maybe my last vacation sightseeing??  But day-to-day?  Not sure about if you do the same as me but I think I’m either looking straight ahead or down….a lot.  A few examples would be like when I’m reading, watching TV, cross stitching, and I was going to say driving but I guess you have to look up at the signals but I was thinking more along the lines of looking up towards the sky.

Some people who come to mind that look up a lot are astronomers (hopefully not at the sun), rock climbers, bird watchers or hey even UFO enthusiasts right?  There really isn’t too much that I can think of that makes most people look up very much really (I could insert a Godzilla or Superman joke here but I won’t..haha).

But getting back to hope I guess for every positive there is a negative right?  The song by the band The Trews called “Hope and Ruin” comes to mind reminding listeners of this (pretty good song but I’m not a fan of the music video despite part of it being filmed here in Toronto though).

Is hope a disease that keeps us perpetually ill with want or desire that may or may not come to fruition? or is hope that inner drive which gives each day new meaning that feeds a perpetual and renewable interest in life?

One thing that I believe may be true (from my communication studies):  // if you hold your head up your mind and spirit will perk and follow the same trajectory \\  Please try it sometime soon? :-)

This completed stitched piece was made just after spending almost a week at the hospital with one of my dogs (he is doing great now and is back home) and it gave me pause to reflect on just how precious the things that we love in each of our lives just really are.  It inspired the choice of this cross stitch subject.

Details regarding this piece are as follows:  finished size = 5″ x 7″, stitched over 2 threads on a 32 count linen with DMC B5200 and DMC 816.

Completed Cross Stitch – Lanarte’s “Nibbling Beechnuts”

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This is my latest big project finish.  This was a kit.

I started it on October 10, 2010 and worked on it on and off until completing it on October 12, 2011.
I was very determined to finish it by the one year mark as I forgot that so much time has passed on my WIP that I ‘whipped’ myself into gear and made it my #1 goal to finish it and here it is.
Here’s how I encouraged myself: listening to “The Help” and the first 2 Harry Potter books on audiobook formats…. You’re so busy listening to the wonderful stories that you keep cross stitching just to keep listening!
My latest thing is to put a start date on my patterns so that I can see how long I have been working on it because time passes so quickly that it is easy to forget when I first start a project and especially if I have a few on the go.

Completed Cross Stitch – Charley Harper’s "Cool Cardinal"

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The American Modernist nature artist, Charley Harper, has a minimalist style that has definitely stood the test of time.  He has worked with the Audubon Society, various zoos and even the Ford Motor Company and his active years appear to be about the 1950s to 1970s.

One of the reasons I point out that his work is timeless is that just for one example “Cool Cardinal” was originally released in 1974; the hand-drawn cross stitch pattern from KD Artistry, Inc. (for Puckerbrush) is from 1985 and finally, here it is again in 2013 in thread and fabric form.

Here is my list of random information bits about this latest completed work:

  1. Finished size:  15.25″ x 4.25″
  2. Linen 28 or 32 count, possibly Monster Mash from Picture This Plus
  3. DMC white used not DMC B5200; DMC white is more yellow and B5200 is more blue (brighter white) – I only had white on-hand at the time (maybe B5200 might have been too overpowering)
  4. Used 3 strands instead of 2
  5. Would not recommend linen for geometrical work
  6. Kreinik Metallics #032 blending filament used with white (really adds a delicateness to the snow and keeps the overall work from looking too flat or heavy because of the bold colours and lines)
  7. Would not recommend this pattern for beginners – too hard to understand some of the instructions
  8. Discovered a new technique from this pattern:  the use of interchanging double and single lines of backstitching for effect (that was really cool…no pun LOL)
  9. Snowflakes got a little tedious to work on at times
  10. And lastly, one time I looked up from this work and saw a cardinal sitting outside my windowsill…awwww

I have added a picture of the Kreinik blending filament to show the iridescence because unfortunately it does not seem to show up through the photographs (sorry, I tried several times with natural and artificial light)

Completed Cross Stitch – Aliolka’s “Red Fox and Grapes”

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Yinka Shonibare’s use of Dutch wax cotton fabric in his “How to Blow Up Two Heads at Once (Ladies)” 2006 was the inspiration for the background.  It was one of my favourite pieces from Art History this year (Thank you Professor S. M.!)

The Dutch colonists first learned about Indonesian Batik in the Dutch East Indies.  The process is putting hot wax on cool fabric to transform plain cloth into patterned cloth through a wax-resistant dye technique.  Dutch wax fabric became popular in West Africa and became to be associated with the bold print designs you still see common today.

The dye is soaked into the fabric where there is no wax.  The wax gets melted off, the process is repeated until the layers of colour and design are desired.

So, I did just the same but got a little lazy (meaning I had no design in mind) and impatient to try this out.  I took a medium sized candle, waited about 10 seconds after lighting the wick and just poured whatever candle wax drippings would melt fast enough onto the 22-count Hardanger grey cotton fabric.

The wax looked like a bunch of little ugly blobs and I thought to myself, “uh oh…maybe this isn’t going to turn out like I thought.  This will be my ‘test and throw away’ piece then”.

In keeping with the Dutch wax boldness, I vamped up the choice of dye to red RIT and purple Kool-Aid.  Here is the list of my steps:

  1. Wax drippings (drops of dots)
  2. Red RIT dye dip #1
  3. Melt wax off
  4. Light bleach wash in the centre of the fabric
  5. Second round of wax drippings (side-to-side splashes this time)
  6. Grape Kool-Aid dip #2
  7. Melt wax off
  8. Red RIT dye dip #3, just the edges of the fabric

The final product is what you see through no pre-planning just experimentation.

The cross stitch subject is based on Aesop’s fable of “The Fox and Grapes” but is inspired from me not getting into my desired program earlier this year.

Here is short summary of the fable:  fox wanted to get some juicy grapes, couldn’t reach them and because he couldn’t reach them, figured they were probably sour anyway.

Since I did not get into the program, I figured that I probably would not have liked it anyway.  Maybe I am right, maybe I am wrong.

But I got over my “sour grapes” and am still pursuing my degree because it is still my #1 goal.  Why should I give up over one wee minor setback despite my new fuzzy situation?  Have you ever felt the same way about an obstruction?

I k-n-o-w that one day after I grow and learn a little more, my reach will extend far enough to grasp my “juicy grapes” and they won’t be sour.  :-)