Sunday, October 22, 2023

Daily art on the cruise 2

I wrote in my last post about a large piece of stitching that I did on my cruise, and said that I was not pleased with the result.  

The next piece I worked on made me much happier.

stitching, July 31

It was fun to be working on color after two weeks of beige, and I started out making little stars in the corner for a sky, but after only one day of stars I shifted to blanket stitch across the bottom for the earth in a landscape.  And after only one day of that, I realized that the sashiko thread wasn't playing well with blanket stitch.  

stitching, August 1

I don't have a lot of experience with sashiko thread, despite having admired its use by many other artists.  A friend gave me a package of it some time ago, but I only started using it earlier this year.  I love it for straight stitches, but apparently the blanket stitch causes the thread to twist and I found that after four or five inches, the two strands of the thread would start to separate, and I didn't like the looks of the stitches with the two distinct strands.  I compensated by twirling the thread in the opposite direction between finger and thumb every few stitches, but this was tedious and imperfect.

Before too long I was planning my exit strategy from blanket stitch, plus an exit strategy from the six-pointed stars, which I realized would be boring if they filled the whole sky.  There had been a supermoon earlier that week, with lots of nice pictures on TV, so I decided to put a supermoon in my landscape.  I wanted it to be perfectly round, so I made a template and filled the circle with tightly packed coral stitch.

stitching, August 6

The moon went slowly, and on August 10 I had a disaster, taking a classic face-plant fall when we were ashore in Ireland.  I smashed my glasses and ended up with a beautiful black eye.  That left me coping for the rest of the trip with my $2 glasses that I had luckily stuck in my cosmetic case just in case.  They focused about 24 inches from my eye, perfect for computer work and acceptable for reading on my phone, but not well suited for precise embroidery. 

I could see well enough  to finish the moon and start a new density of sky, in which I picked up only one thread in a tiny dot of a stitch.  But I couldn't see well enough to actually do the tiny stitches accurately.  So in a snit, I switched to another piece of fabric and started a new stitching.  It was not well planned, and it looked terrible.  So I slunk back to my blue landscape and resolved that I would figure out how to soldier through for the ten days left in the cruise.

Turns out that sometimes you can overcome adversity with a good attitude and a willingness to try what seems impossible.  I found that I could reliably make stitches over a single thread of background fabric by feel, if not by sight.  The hefty homespun-type fabric had fat enough threads that I could place the tip of the needle at the hole where the thread emerged, then carefully move it up and over one thread and stick the needle in where it came down over the hump.  This worked for probably nine stitches out of every ten, and on the tenth, I was willing to pull the thread out for a do-over.  

stitching, August 23

At home, of course, I wouldn't dream of being so picky and patient, but what else was there to do while listening to lawyers talk about the fine points of mugshots?  It was surprisingly calming to slowly stitch a Milky Way across the blue, and I finished the piece a couple of days before we came home.

Friday, October 13, 2023

Daily art on the cruise 1

I do daily art, you know, and I gave some thought to how to do this while traveling.  Most of the time this year I have been doing a separate small piece of stitching each day, working from my huge inherited stash of my friend Joanne's leftover fabrics.  But I didn't want to have to prepare 35 pieces of fabric to take along.  So I found four large pieces, packed a couple of skeins of white sashiko thread and worked a little bit each day. 

The routine on a cruise ship varies depending on whether you're at sea or making a port stop for the day.  On sea days there are more activities such as concerts and lectures, and I did a lot of stitching during those events.  But where I really went to town was while watching the news.

There's a very limited repertoire of TV stations available on a ship, and our news choices were slim: Fox, MSNBC and BBC.  For much of our cruise there wasn't much to look at, but then we struck news gold -- the former president was indicted twice and mugshotted once.  For once there was actual news to be watched and discussed, and we were impressed by the legal experts assembled to explain the niceties of criminal procedure.  Many of them were former federal prosecutors themselves, and I learned a great deal from them.  And while I learned, I stitched.

As it turned out, I finished two of the four pieces I had brought along. 

I was reminded that seed stitch -- the bulk of the top half of this composition, where the stitches go in every direction -- is surprisingly hard to do.  If you want your little lines to look random, you have to think several stitches ahead to avoid a lot of parallel pairs.  Not so much thinking as to take your mind totally off your music or news, but enough to slow you down considerably compared to running stitches.

I was not thrilled with how this piece turned out.  The blanket stitch "railroad tracks" through the middle drew too much attention without being particularly beautiful, and the spirals didn't stand out all that much from their backgrounds.  I think the drab neutral background would have been better with a colored thread or at least some colored accents, but I had nothing with me to do that.  I was glad when I finished it.

I'll show you the other pieces in the next post.

Friday, September 1, 2023

The great trip -- Greenland

In this summer of terrible weather, we accomplished our goal of escaping the traditional misery of July and August in the upper South: heat, humidity, air pollution, thunderstorms, power outages.  And it worked, as we took a cruise to Canada, Greenland, Iceland, Scotland, Ireland and back again.  The weather there was great, with the occasional cloudy or drizzly day but mostly sunny and cool.  One day, as we sailed through the scenic fjords, waterfalls and glaciers at the tip of Greenland, I sat on our balcony for several hours, periodically adding more and more clothing until I was wearing every outer garment I  had brought along, plus a blanket.  Heaven!!

one of many glaciers in Prins Christian Sund
This cruise took us mostly to smaller towns (which is pretty much all there is in the countries we visited) so our days ashore didn't include a lot of excitement.  We don't like to spend hours on a bus going on the very expensive shore excursions, and our ambitious hiking days are decades in the past, so our typical routine was to get off the ship, walk around town for a while, find a place to have a beer, and return to the ship.  Usually Ken went back first, leaving me to wander about and take photos at leisure.


The towns in Greenland all have bright and cheery color schemes, the better to show up against snow and clouds, but they are small, isolated and minimal.  None are connected by road to anywhere else.  I was simultaneously exhilarated by the beautiful surroundings and the depressing realization of how limited life must be, especially for the young people.  Yes, the coming of the internet has opened up the world virtually, but physically how many of those kids will ever be able to get anywhere else?  Parts of these villages had the same forlorn vibe as Indian reservations we have driven through in the US -- but maybe we're projecting our emotions onto people who don't feel the same way we do.

a boatful of people from Aappilattoq

As we cruised past a tiny village, population about 100, a little armada of boats came out to say hello.  People loaded up their kids and zipped around the big ship, waving and hollering.  Two boats pulled up together so a couple of children could climb over to join their pals, with all the nonchalance of our kids going from one parked car to another.  (Nobody wore life jackets and I held my breath while they made the transfer.)  Certainly the best entertainment of the day for the locals, and I wondered if they do this every time a cruise ship passes.


I felt twinges of guilt as I wandered about and snapped the boats, fishing equipment and containers, the older and more weatherbeaten the better -- was I being a rude tourist/voyeur?  Yes, there were shiny new boats by the docks, but the beat-up old ones make much better pictures.  Yes, I examined my guilt but then I took more pictures.  Mea culpa.



As you can see from the photos, there is junk lying around, as in any working environment, but the streets are clean, the houses are bright, the little kids are happy, flowers are everywhere, there is little graffiti to be seen,  and the air is probably purer than I've ever breathed at home.  


We've been in Greenland once before, many years ago, and I fell in love with it.  It was such a thrill to go back again, this trip blessed with far better weather than we had the first time.  Perhaps it's within the realm of possibility that I could even go there again....

Tuesday, August 8, 2023

At sea again

Nanortalik, Greenland 

Prins Christian Sund, Greenland 

For 50 years we've sweltered through Louisville summers and asked ourselves why we don't go somewhere cold for July and August.  This year we finally did it, and set off for a cruise to Canada, Greenland, Iceland, Scotland and other cool climes.  We're in Rotterdam today at the halfway point, and will head home on pretty much the same route.

You can keep your sunny beaches, I am drawn to the cold places.  And we're getting our fill on this trip!

Wednesday, July 26, 2023

Some beads and a nostalgia trip

daily stitching July 14

A couple of days ago I wanted to add some beads to my daily stitching, and had the idea to make them stand up in a tower instead of just lie there on the fabric.  And as I started sewing them on, I thought of Sandy Snowden.  Sandy was one of my good internet friends whom I never got the pleasure of meeting in person, although other in-person friends of mine were also in-person friends of hers.  

Sandy lived in England and was an avid garment sewist as well as a lover of quilts and hand stitching and an enthusiastic blogger.  Sadly, she died in 2020 but her husband has thoughtfully left her blog online, and that allowed me to indulge in an hour of nostalgia.

In 2019 Sandy did a daily art project involving beads, 24,000 of them, to commemorate 24,000 Christians in India who were physically attacked in the previous year because of their faith.  She wrote, "I wanted to see just how many 24,000 was." 

Each day for 300 days she sewed on 80 beads, sometimes in towers (standing straight up from the fabric, attached at only one end of the queue) and sometimes in loops (attached at both ends, standing up like an inchworm).  She finished the year by adding words around the edges of the composition.

Sandy's finished project

Sandy put a small sequin underneath each bead tower, for a bit more structural stability, but unless I happen to find my stash of sequins in the very near future, I'm going to do my own beads without that step.

Sandy's project in mid-July 2019

As an aficionada of daily art, I have always enjoyed it when one of my internet friends embarks on a daily project, and I follow along closely during the year. Going back through Sandy's old posts that year, I came across my own comments many times, which made me happy that I had been able to stay in such close touch with her.

I don't know how long I will keep stitching bead towers in my own daily project this year, but I'll be thinking about Sandy while I do it, and about how the internet has allowed us to make connections and friends across the continents whom we would have probably never met in real life.

daily stitching July 15

daily stitching July 16

daily stitching July 18

Monday, July 10, 2023

Someone else's trash becomes my treasure

Last year my good friend moved to Atlanta, and realized that she owned a whole lot of stuff that she didn't want to take with her.  So she held an open house of sorts, in which friends were encouraged to take home anything in two big upstairs rooms.  I of course could not resist, and found all sorts of treasures, including but hardly limited to a guillotine blade paper cutter and a 1950 edition of Webster's New International Dictionary.  I've been using the paper cutter for myriad projects, and cutting up the dictionary for art.

But today I want to talk about a special find: a huge box full of the ribbons and medals that my friend's daughter won in a long and successful swimming career, spanning many years from childhood through high school.  The minute I saw them I knew they were perfect fodder to be turned into "postage stamps" for a grid quilt.

The ribbons were two inches wide, with woven selvages, already a bit stiff with some kind of sizing, but I backed them with nonwoven polypropylene for a little more substance.  As soon as the backing was sewed to the ribbons, I sliced them into squares with a pinked-edge rotary blade, and then continued with many more rows of stitching in different colors.  There was no fraying or raveling (a big improvement over previous postage stamp projects) and the gold letters and pictures sparkle when the light hits them right.  

I watched a great deal of trash TV last August while mindlessly feeding hundreds and hundreds of squares through the sewing machine, and eventually counted and bagged all the finished squares and stashed them away in a big shoebox.

I pulled the shoebox out again in April and started sewing the squares together into a grid.  Having learned from experience that the larger the quilt, the more tedious it is to sew it together, I decided to make three separate panels and hang them as a tryptych.  It was so easy to put these smaller panels together that I zipped through the final assembly stage in less than a week.

And now the finished quilt -- "Competition" -- is hanging in the 20th Anniversary Show at PYRO Gallery.  I think it looks great, and it was probably the most painless major piece that I have ever made!