February TUSAL

It doesn’t seem like it’s been so long since I posted my January Ort photos for the Totally Useless Stitch Along (TUSAL).  No matter—I still have added quite a few snips and strings to the container.

Remnants of stitching history

Kind of pretty aren’t they!?

And then I dropped the container in the dogs’ bed, so everything got shaken up and turned around!

February TUSAL

What was the top is now the bottom!

But here’s a new one for you.  I have a good number of orts still on the fabric!

Orts in progress

All the color you see represents orts not yet in the jar!

I was working so diligently on a model that Sabine Taterra-Gundacker will soon be posting as available at her sensational e-store, European Reproduction Samplers.  This one is a reproduction of the sampler created by Martha Stone in 1840  when she was young, but exact age not certain (that I know of.)

It is a simple but charming design representing two young girls in their fancy dresses with what were typical toys of the time.  A couple cupids add to the charm.  And the whole thing is surrounded by a continuous strawberry border.  I’m thinking the girl didn’t clean and cut up too many strawberries because her color gradation is backward.  And the right side and the left side are not symmetrical—that kind of bugs the perfectionist in me.

But for heaven’s sake she was just a kid!  Imagine yourself at 7 to 9 years old and no pattern to stitch from.  You sit down with some fabric and thread and “color.”  When you think if it that way, this kid was a prodigy!  Shoot, many of us adults don’t do as well!

Original Martha Stone sampler

Photo from European Reproduction Samplers.
This is the sampler Sabine is creating the chart from.

The hard part, well actually two…

The first hard part was not correcting what I perceive to be her mistakes—changing the gradation of the berries and making the border symmetrical between berry groups.

The second hard part was realizing after 17 hours of work that I made a mistake back in hour two of work.  I was off one stitch.  It affected the left and bottom borders, one that I had already completed and the other had a good start on.  So, I started unstitching.  (Some call this frogging because you “rip it, rip it, rip it!”)  The more berries I ripped out, the more uncomfortable I was with the idea of continuing with the fabric.  The red thread (DMC 304) was discoloring the white fabric slightly.  Because I really thought it would show, even just a little, I started over completely.

See how red runs

See how they run!

But the new work is looking beautiful and I am happy with how it looks.  I am triple checking my count because I don’t want to go through this again.  And I want my piece done when Sabine is ready to post the finished instructions.  So, I’ve set all my other work aside temporarily.

Martha Stone coming along

So far, so good.

Don't like running colors or threads.

I don’t like running colors or threads…this is the back

So why did this happen and how can you avoid doing the same thing?

Let me say that most of my stitching during my stitching life has been when I lived alone with no television and no pets.  NO DISTRACTION!  It’s a lot like meditation.  Very easy to be peaceful and calm when you’re isolated and have no interruptions—when you have total control of your environment.  Not so easy when you’re folding clothes in the laundromat on a Sunday afternoon.  Not so easy when you’re walking down a sidewalk of Washington D.C.  when all schools in the country have sent their school children for their spring trips.  Not so easy when your dogs are barking (i.e. screaming) at strangers walking by or jumping on your knee indicating it is time for a walk in the wilds.  Not so easy when your partner decides—just as you get that empty mind thing going (i.e. counted the 30th  stitch of 42)—it’s time to talk about where we want to retire!

It is time to learn to meditate/stitch in the middle of living.  It is an incredible challenge.  But that’s living.  It’s a challenge to walk and chew gum.  It’s a challenge to move from left to right brain in milliseconds.  It’s a challenge for a vegetarian to live with someone who doesn’t eat beans, cheese, or rice!  These are the sorts of things we choose to and that also that we must do sometimes.  And we do it.  And I will learn to stitch with distractions, just like when my monkey brain jumps into the calm pool I can get it to sit still.

In stitching terms, this mean I must:

  1. recognize I’ve been distracted
  2. determine when the distraction began
  3. go back to where I was at in my stitching when the distraction began
  4. recheck my work
  5. when I pick up my work anew, recheck from the beginning to ensure dealing with my distractions didn’t distract me further previously and contribute to unrecognized mistakes!

It’s all about recognizing, accepting, and assuming one’s place at the baseline to continue.    Pretty simple.  Right?!

Until then, there’s the Totally Useless Stitch Along.  Which is a lovely piece of art in progress.  (And so, not so totally useless!)  And when my jar is full, all those scraps will be turned into Prayer Flags!  More on that later!  Until then love the froggy green!

Half Chevron Stitch, TAST Challenge, and the Meditation Continues

I looked many places to find tutorials on the Half Chevron Stitch.  It is not a well documented stitch.  If anyone has any info on how this stitch was developed I would love to know about it.

I did, however, see numerous blog posts about the half chevron.  Most were in reference to the TAST challenges.  Interesting.

My approach to this stitch was to consider additional “notions of attachment.”  One person has commented on my play on words.  I’m not sure others understand the intended stitching pun!  I’m sure all stitchers understand sewing notions and things we use for attaching to fabric.  But I was also alluding to notions meaning ideas and the attachments I meant were the attachments that impede spiritual progress in Buddhism where attachments are considered the root of all suffering in life.

image of shakyamuni buddha

Buddha

For years, indeed decades, stitching has been a meditation for me.  It began when the only stitching I did was counted cross stitch.  I came to see that each stitch was the equivalent of one breath.  One half the cross is a breath in.  Completing the cross is the exhalation.  Maneuvering the thread and positioning of the hand and work is the space between breaths.  And in this way, each embroidered piece is ALIVE!  Then when you give that piece away, you are giving a very real part of your essence.

Part of traveling a Buddhist path is to look carefully for any impediments along the way to reducing suffering in the world and ultimately reaching a state of enlightenment.  There are so many ways of accomplishing this.  One of the things that is a chronic problem for me on the path is attachments, things that keep me stuck in one place, things that make me feel too strongly in one direction.  I have been successful to a large extent in giving up my emotional attachments to “things.”  For example, when the box holding my bone china collection fell in the storage unit last summer, Jeff apologized for a week as he had heard the tinkle of breakage when he grabbed the box.  I had a moment of profound sadness.  But only a moment.  I felt the feeling and then it was over.  Jeff was more upset than I was.  This summer we will open that box and toss out what is pointless to hang on to as we continue to downsize.  It will be work.  It will be a job.  That’s all.  No drama.

When traveling North and I thought that we were going to lose our truck and our lifestyle.  I was devastated.  Primarily thinking about the possibility of moving into a situation that would not allow me to keep my dogs.  I am INCREDIBLY attached to my dogs.  It is an extreme emotional response.  This is an Attachment that stands between me a living a life of Nonattachment according to Buddhist principles.  It is something I struggle with every day.

Safety Pins Attached via Half Chevron Stitch

Pinned: The attachment of addictions might look like this

Hence my TAST 2012 Attachment Quilt block that I have named Pinned, like pinned to the wall, pinned down. I began with the notion (and the idea).  Would it be snaps or pins?  With the half chevron stitch I decided safety pins would be the better choice.  After all the chevrons are spikey like the pins.  I tossed the pins and let them sit where they landed on my sketch pad within the six-inch square.  I traced the heads of the pins to capture the orientation.

Sketch for Half Chevron Stitch Safety Pin Attachment Block

Outline of how safety pins fell into place

Following the diagram, I attached the safety pins to the six-inch square of Aida cloth (14 count.)

Half Chevron Stitch Safety Pins Attached

Half Chevron Stitch Safety Pins Attached

Okay, now what?!  Color.  I decided to go with some approximation of primary colors since the attachments I have been meditating on are very basic, primal if you will.  Each of the three colors would follow a different path and end up where it began, the danger of all unexamined attachments.  See how messy it can get!  And those half chevrons, they look so prickly.

Safety Pins Attached via Half Chevron Stitch

Closer view of Pinned

Does any of this make sense to you?  Does it resonate with your connection to stitching?  Does stitching help you think or problem solve?  Or pray?