Friday, July 17, 2009

My Passion Pre-Stamping

I was chatting with a co-worker (Hi, Jess!) today who made the mistake of asking me a few questions about cross-stitch. You see, in my life before stamping, I was all about cross stitch. I own every color DMC floss (current up until I quit the hobby, that is); I have a cache of various pieces of Aida cloth in differing counts and colors; I have linen in various colors; I have books and magazines out the wazoo, filled with patterns and pretty pictures; I even have a hardcover book called America's Best Cross Stitch. Yep, I was in deep.

There was the best-ever cross stitch store in a small town just North of here. She had her entire basement converted into a store, and walking in there was like walking into a stamp store today. Oh, my goodness, the things she had. And she knew every color DMC floss just by looking at it. Talk about in deep.

The thing that impressed me the most was her ability to invent her own designs by piecing together the parts of other designs that she liked. At one point, when I told her I was bored with everything I had, and there was not much joy in stitching the patterns any more, she suggested I create my own - just make it up! And I did! It was fun! I'll talk more about this when we get to it.

So anyway, cross stitch was my passion until it became too difficult to see the images in the tiny squares. Counted cross stitch uses a different symbol to represent each color, and they put the symbols in the squares, and you get to count how many of what you need to stitch. I graduated to a magnifying gizmo that hung around my neck, but it was not good enough to keep me going.

Then I heard that the fabulous store was closing! She had the nerve to retire and move back to Wisconsin! So I went and I stocked up on stuff. I mean, she had linen by the yard! Sigh ... She laughed at me because I was buying things even though I could no longer see the little designs. But I am sorry, Mike's just cannot hold a candle to a place like that.

The date on my last piece is 2002, which is the year I discovered stamping. The rest, as they say, is history.

So I thought I'd take you on a trip down memory lane this evening. I have taken mostly poor, blurry, badly-lit photos of the projects I still have adorning my walls, and I have ordered them from oldest (first ones done) to last. Okay, I am sure somewhere I have stuff from like when I was 8, but I am not going back that far. Sorry.

Let us begin.

This piece was completed in 1990. I think I even took it to Europe with me to work on while on the plane. This is called The Pink Lady, and it was a royal pain in the arse. There is a lot of shadowing and shading done with the floss colors. The part of this that gave me fits was doing a section in color A (two threads of floss), followed by a section of A+B (one thread of color A plus one thread of color B), followed by a section done with two threads of color B. Etc, ad nauseum. The result was beautiful gradient coloring, but OMG.

It was after completing this project that I never bought another kit. Instead I'd buy the pattern and the individual colors of floss so I knew what I had! Back then, the kits did not tell you which color was which. I did a lot of squinting back then.

Here is a close-up of the bushes and grass. I did these last, and I was instructed to use specific greens, but by this time, for the life of me I had no idea what was what, so I punted. Not bad considering I made up all the color combos!

I lied - this one was a kit, too. I bought this plus one other kit from the Historical Society of Chicago, and they are reproductions of antique samplers. Back in the day, girls had to learn how to sew, and the 'sampler' was their way to show off their stitching abilities. This was my first experience with linen. I fell in love with it, but I respected the fact that you could stitch for hours and not get very far. Teeny tiny stitches, these are!

Here's a closer look at some of the stitching. I finished this one in 1994.
Then a friend of mine had this sampler in her house, and I borrowed the pattern to make my own. She did hers over one stitch (linen) and I did mine over two stitches, so mine is way bigger than hers. FYI - most of the linen I have used is 32-count. I forget if ALL linen is 32- count, but all the linen *I* have used is. Oh, 32-count means there are 32 stitches per inch. I told you the stitches were small!

This is my favorite of the patterns. See how tiny those threads are?!

And a bunny! I know one or two of my readers like bunnies. :-) I also finished this one in 1994.

This ... this is my pride and joy. Probably because it took me two years to complete it, and it was a large part of my life during that time. (Notice the lava lamp there to the left? It has purple lava. I told you I have 'things'.) This piece is about 24" across, to give you an idea of the size.

The pattern for this came in a series of monthly magazines, with two buildings of the design in each mag. I collected them (oh, yeah, like anyone would STITCH two buildings in a month! LOL!) and one day I went to that little store in the town North of here and she picked out the perfect 32-count linen piece for me to use. I think this is Fiddler's Cloth, actually, which I dearly love for its rustic, more casual look. When I was chatting with my co-worker today, this Fiddler's Cloth started to pull be back into the web (did anyone else hear that sucking sound?), and I thought maybe I could go back to stitching counted cross stitch since I have really strong reading glasses now, and I'd bet I can see the patterns in the little squares. Or not.

Here is a closer look at the little street scene. See all that detail? I think it really was worth the time and effort. I finished this one in 1996.

Here is one of the windows. This piece is stitched over two threads of the cloth, but the windows are done over a single thread with a single strand of floss. I timed it, and each window took me about 3 hours to do. If the glare is not blinding you, go ahead and click on the photo for a closer look.

I used this pattern to make a housewarming gift for a friend of mine. I made hers in greens and grey. Then I figured I'd make one for myself and I used greens and tans. (Maybe you have not noticed, but all my walls are a taupe-y/tan color. Yawn.)

Remember how I said I was getting bored with patterns? This is one I made up all on my own. I have a ton of magazines and books with all sorts of patterns and designs and borders, so I just picked them out and entered them into some Cross Stitch design shareware I had at the time. The basket at the top was one I loved from another pattern, and I thought it would make a good topper for my piece. I found a font I liked for the alphabet, and figured out how it would all lay out on the piece so I could see where I needed to fill in.

Then came my favorite part ... I added in little designs that were meaningful to me at that time. From the top, there is a heart next to the 'L', cuz I {heart} my boys. Next to the 'M' I stitched some books, cuz I love books, and thankfully so do my kids. Next to the 'V' is a puppy I colored to look like the tan Lhasa Apso I had at the time. Next to the 'W' is a fish and bubbles to represent the fish tank I had cuz my boys wanted fish. One of the fish actually survived for several years, and is now buried in my back yard. Goldie. How cute.

At the bottom of the sampler are my initials and the initials for both of my boys, plus the year (obviously 1998). I added a town house in the center with some trees - done! Man, I have blathered on a ton about this one, huh? I guess there's something to be said for designing your own of anything. You put so much of yourself into it.

Ah, this one... this one started out with only that top center square done because it was ... square. All of the other quilt patterns have my most hated stitch - a partial stitch - to make the angles. I only did the one quilt, then put the thing away. I finally resurrected it in 2000 and completed the thing. Have I said how much I detest partial stitches? I walk past this every day and I revel in the fact that I survived it.

This piece is in my kitchen, and I started it when my Mom went into Hospice and I would go to Ohio and spend a week sitting with her, and I needed something to do when she slept. She was still aware enough to look at it and comment on how much she liked it, so when I finally finished it later that year, I wanted to put it somewhere I would always see it. I can see it right now as I sit on the couch and look into the kitchen.

I think this is my favorite veggie of the bunch. Most of them are mirror images of each other, but the corn stands alone.

These next two pieces are not dated so I stuck them on the end of this tome.

Okay, this one is disgustingly blurry, but it is part of a song by Tom Paxton (who I adore) and I wanted to stitch it so I would read the words every day. Allow me to decipher for you:

Oh, my own life
Is all I can hope to control
Oh, let my life
Be lived for the good,
Good of my soul.

Nice, huh? It is part of the chorus of "Peace Will Come", which is, as with most folk music, a sing-along. Anyway, I have a pattern for a cursive alphabet, and I did really stitch these letters, one at a time, following the instructions. I really like how the word part of it came together. The rest of it is totally lame, but the words are fine!

And finally we come to the last piece to which I will subject you. This was a pattern I bought at the little store that was closing, and even though I could not see the tiny squares, I bought it anyway. If you look closely, the edges of the square are stitched to look like lace. I think that is what grabbed my attention. For reference, the piece is about 5" across.

The frame - ah, the frame. I wanted a distressed-looking frame, but Mike's did not have what I wanted in the size I wanted, so one of the crafty ladies there (I think they were craftier back then than they are now) showed me how to take some gold paint and rub it unevenly on a burgundy frame. Ta-da! It looks lovely IRL.

So there you have it. Not only a complete tour of the cross stitch in my life, but you have just read what I think might be the longest post in the history of Bloggerdom. If there is an award for that, would someone please let me know, or enter me, or something?

I have much more in my brain that wants to spill out of my fingertips, but I think I'll go stamp something and save all that stuff for another day.

Thanks for stopping by!


  1. Beautiful Work. Ever do a Teresa Wentzler? I did her English Cottage Sampler and am in the middle of her Fruit Bellpull...of course, this might be a 25-year project as I haven't worked on it in over a year and then only a couple of hours. Prior to that, I think it was 3 years ago.

  2. Wonderful, wonderful to read and see. I can totally empathise with you here as I trod the self same road, but the end of my cross stitching wasn't my eyesight but OA in my thumb joints, so holding a needle for any length of time was agony. Your work is stunning so thanks for sharing such delights with us. x

  3. First of all....THANK YOU SO MUCH for bring back the pop up box for really is so much easier :)
    Now on to the cross stitch...I dabbled in this for a little while in my early 20s...nothing like what you have done though. OMG, your stuff is AMAZING!!!! I love it all so much...things like that really make a house into a home. And speaking of houses...the gorgeous town house reminds me of your city cards...maybe that's why you did them????? It's stunning and I'd be thrilled to have something so beautiful in my house :)

  4. YAY!!!! Thanks for posting all of that- I really enjoyed reading it and seeing your work! I did not realize just how many pieces you had on display!

    Despite feeling like a doofus who can't count, I have been enjoying my slight foray into cross stitching and am looking forward to making some larger projects.

    I did the quilts- I may have to find myself something quilty!

  5. I am a cross-stitcher too. My last one was completed 3 years ago. I have not done any since. I still have drawers full of kits and aida cloth too. Before moving to the 'burg 5 years ago, I sold almost all of my old books and magazines on ebay. I did keep every issue I had at the time of For the Love of Cross-Stitch. I detest the kits because I can not figure out the colors; sorting them is my most hated part of getting started! I agree with you on partial stitches too...yuck.

    Your work is lovely!!!

  6. All that hand work is just GORGEOUS! I used to do a lot of it so I know how much time and effort is put into such large - and beautiful projects! You are smart to put them behind glass - keep them safe for generations to come!


I'd love to hear what you really think! :-)

PS: I've had to disable Anonymous comments, because the spammers were killing me. If you are unable to comment, please email me your comment and I'll get it posted for you. Sorry. (stoopid spammers)