Saturday, December 31, 2016

Casket Toy Contest Entries Due!

The entries for my Casket Toy contest are due tonight at Midnight!  So if you are almost done - get an entry in... you have many hours to get the pieces done!

I am enjoying seeing the entries as they come in and they are about as opposite from each other as you could ever imagine, making my job tough!  I can't wait to share the entries with you all on the blog after I have time to digest them and make my decisions.


Friday, December 30, 2016

Making Your Own Graphs

Top design printed at 133% so I can trace it onto 18 count graph
paper to make a 24 count design to scale and fit
on the casket.
For those who want to work the Five Seasons Casket Design on a different count of linen or a different design entirely, but counted, I have pictures of the process of making a graph to share.

The first is the scaling of the design and the use of graph paper.  You need to get a set of graph paper to use.  The best is using one that is either equal or half of the linen threads/inch of your linen.  An example is 20 count graph paper for 20 or 40 count linen.  18 count graph paper for 36 count linen.  It is pretty hard to use graph paper once it is smaller than 20 count, so that is about as high as you can find.  StitchPoint has graph paper as useful counts that you can print.  

Taped together pieces of 18-count
graph paper.
So say you like my design but want to stitch it over 1 on 36 count.  Print out the 18 count paper on the site and then scale each of my designs by 200% when printing.  (36/18 = 200%).  Trace the design on the graph paper and you have the right scale.

In my case, I already had 18 count graph paper I owned and I wanted to do the lid top for the flat casket, but on 24 count graph paper.  24/18=133%.  So I printed out my top design at 133% on several sets of paper and cut and taped them together to make one large design.   I then taped it to a light table.

Graph paper over the enlarged design on a light table
I then took the 18 count paper and trimmed it and taped it together to make a large piece of graph paper.  I carefully aligned it on the design on top of a light table and taped it down.  At this point, I traced the outlines of the design on the graph paper as well as the inner grey border to find the perimeter of the design.  I will likely add 2-3 stitches to each edge to help
compensate for the skew when stitching.

Traced design on the graph paper
Once the design was traced onto the graph paper, I could start filling in the outlines of each motif on the graph paper where the traced line crossed a graph square.

You could continue like this with colored pencils, making yourself a master graph or you can enter it into a computer graphing program of your choice.

Starting to fill in the squares where the traced design crosses
a graph square.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Graphs for Stitch Along

The graphs are in symbols or a color backed symbol chart for
each stitcher to decide which is easier to read
For those who are doing the tent stitch casket stitch-along with me starting on January 1st, the link to purchase graphs for the MONTROSE 24 ct linen only is up in the shop.

The graphs are posted in the order of working listed in the stitch-along resources for each casket. (Double, Flat or Flat with Doors)  Several are up for the double casket already with the big top for the other two caskets to be posted by January 1st.   They will post at least by the 1st of the month before you need them.

There are only a handful of Montrose Linen cuts left.  You only need 1/2 yard (1 cut as sold) to make a double casket and the others will have plenty extra left over.  So if you are planning on doing your casket this way, purchase the linen at the same time if you don't already have it.

Getting the graphs gives you access to all the casket sizes for this Five Seasons casket design in case you are still unsure which way you are going.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Nice Article on School Girl Art

There is a nice article about schoolgirl art in America during the 18th and 19th century with many lovely pictures (large) of some of the most outstanding pieces of this work.  

Of course, some of them are unique, out of the ordinary which has made them extra valuable in the folk art market, but still fascinating to look at and enjoy.

I did have the opportunity to view this piece, which had been loaned to the American Folk Art Museum, when it was auctioned two years ago and I have to say that it was up there in my favorite embroideries of all time.  Not only fascinating mix of needlelace and sampler stitches, but the color choices and condition were fantastic.  It is only about 12" tall.   This would be a cool color scheme to work a piece in someday...


Sunday, December 25, 2016

12 Days of Christmas - Day 12

MERRY CHRISTMAS!  The twelfth giveaway is one of the Fall 2015 Sampler & Antique Needlework Quarterly magazines.

If you are interested, send me an email to with Fall 2015 SANQ  in the subject line.  Then be SURE to add your address.  If I don't get that, I toss the email because it takes too long to track people down.

You can enter until midnight EST Dec 26th.


Saturday, December 24, 2016

12 Days of Christmas - Day 11

The eleventh giveaway is one of the April 2015 Just Cross Stitch issues.

If you are interested, send me an email to with April 2015 JCS  in the subject line.  Then be SURE to add your address.  If I don't get that, I toss the email because it takes too long to track people down.

You can enter until midnight EST Dec 25th.


Friday, December 23, 2016

12 Days of Christmas - Day 10

The tenth giveaway is one of the Christmas 2015 Ornament Just Cross Stitch issues.

If you are interested, send me an email to with Ornament 2015 JCS  in the subject line.  Then be SURE to add your address.  If I don't get that, I toss the email because it takes too long to track people down.

You can enter until midnight EST Dec 24th.


Thursday, December 22, 2016

12 Days of Christmas - Day 9

The ninth giveaway is one of the June 2016 Just Cross Stitch issues.

If you are interested, send me an email to with June 2016 JCS  in the subject line.  Then be SURE to add your address.  If I don't get that, I toss the email because it takes too long to track people down.

You can enter until midnight EST Dec 23th.


Wednesday, December 21, 2016

12 Days of Christmas - Day 8

The eighth giveaway is one of the December 2016 Just Cross Stitch issues.

If you are interested, send me an email to with December 2016 JCS  in the subject line.  Then be SURE to add your address.  If I don't get that, I toss the email because it takes too long to track people down.

You can enter until midnight EST Dec 22th.


Tuesday, December 20, 2016

12 Days of Christmas - Day 7

The seventh giveaway is one of the Sept/Oct 2013 Just Cross Stitch issues.

If you are interested, send me an email to with Sept 2013 JCS  in the subject line.  Then be SURE to add your address.  If I don't get that, I toss the email because it takes too long to track people down.

You can enter until midnight EST Dec 21th.


Monday, December 19, 2016

12 Days of Christmas - Day 6

The sixth giveaway is one of the October 2013 Piecework issues.

If you are interested, send me an email to with 2013 Piecework  in the subject line.  Then be SURE to add your address.  If I don't get that, I toss the email because it takes too long to track people down.

You can enter until midnight EST Dec 20th.


Sunday, December 18, 2016

12 Days of Christmas - Day 5

The fifth giveaway is one of the April 2016 Just Cross Stitch issues.

If you are interested, send me an email to with April 2016 JCS  in the subject line.  Then be SURE to add your address.  If I don't get that, I toss the email because it takes too long to track people down.

You can enter until midnight EST Dec 19th.


Saturday, December 17, 2016

12 Days of Christmas - Day 4

The fourth giveaway is one of the Halloween 2016 Just Cross Stitch issues.

If you are interested, send me an email to with Halloween 2016 JCS  in the subject line.  Then be SURE to add your address.  If I don't get that, I toss the email because it takes too long to track people down.

You can enter until midnight EST Dec 18th.


Friday, December 16, 2016

12 Days of Christmas - Day 3

The third giveaway is one of the October 2016 Just Cross Stitch issues.

If you are interested, send me an email to with October 2016 JCS  in the subject line.  Then be SURE to add your address.  If I don't get that, I toss the email because it takes too long to track people down.

You can enter until midnight EST Dec 17th.


Thursday, December 15, 2016

12 Days of Christmas - Day 2

The second giveaway is one of the August 2016 Just Cross Stitch issues.

If you are interested, send me an email to with August 2016 JCS  in the subject line.  Then be SURE to add your address.  If I don't get that, I toss the email because it takes too long to track people down.

You can enter until midnight EST Dec 16th.


Wednesday, December 14, 2016

12 Days of Christmas - Day 1

So I am back to my 12-Days of Christmas giveaways!  This first one is one of the 2016 Just Cross Stitch Christmas Ornament issues.

If you are interested, send me an email to with 2016 JCS Ornament in the subject line.  Then be SURE to add your address.  If I don't get that, I toss the email because it takes too long to track people down.

You can enter until midnight EST Dec 15th.


Tuesday, December 13, 2016

New Friezes to Help Designing Your Casket

I have gotten the new and old friezes all in one place on the Cabinet of Curiosities Part I website (Under Casket Templates) so that you can see them all at once for choosing.

New slope design with guys in a boat
As I have been working with the historic caskets longer, I finally realized how hard it is to make the friezes and not surprisingly, it was hard then!  So after awhile I could see that there aren't very many of them that were designed and they were used over and over on the caskets.  Kinda a comfort to know that they had trouble working in that aspect ratio and recycled designs!  So I went through the caskets and tried to identify them and get them traced off so we could have a full set at our disposal.  If I find more, I will add to it.  But this grouping has some nice ones.

You can also take one and try to replace the flora and fauna with a similarly oriented flower or animal of your choice and it should work much better than trying to originate the design from a blank template.

The slopes are the easiest to put scenes in if you are having trouble getting all your design on the sides of a double casket.  But the scene has to be very linear, like the boat scene above.

Also, another design hint on your larger panels is to think about using half a motif.  Some make the mistake of trying to put all of the motifs they want to represent on the panel as spots instead of trying to compose a scene and zoom into the scene.  The castle might not fit as a spot but would look great if it was half on the panel at the edge.  Same with cars, animals, trees, houses, and other large items.  They would look much better partially there - it still tells you that the object is there - but it doesn't cause you problems with white space.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Dye Lots for Stitch Along

277 is the color on the right
When embarking on a large project like this that will last 24 months, as an engineer, I have to think about everything that can come up and plan.  A change in dyelots is one thing that can upset some people.  So, with that knowledge, we already knew about a short in one area and decided to look at the stock of the colors in the Soie Paris line.  There are three colors that are very low and will run out in the middle of this casket.  We have already been looking at them and making decisions on dealing with that (there are many choices - dye again, substitute, or refrain from using that color beyond the 1 tube everyone will have in their COC1 kits already).  

In general, with such as large number of small motifs on the piece, a new dyed version won't be noticed as it is only noticed if you change in the middle of a motif.  So in that case, the only color types that would be problems would be the massive amount of blue that we will be stitching on the casket for the sky background.  Greens, not a problem, as there are so many in our palette and the mounds are small so you can avoid changing mid stream.  But sky is a different issue.  

And of course, the one thread that I knew was going to have to be dyed early this year is 277, the medium blue that I use as the dark part of the sky on the project.  And blues are the most difficult to dye - so more likely to have differences, although the specials we did last year (lacet, soutashe, etc) came out really well and so I have great hopes.

But I wanted to bring this up.  You know yourself best and what drives you crazy.  If a small change in the dye lot will 'ruin' your entire casket, wait until the new dye lot and buy it.  I will be happy to exchange any full tubes of 277 you have.  Most of you will say - 'hey thanks for warning me!' and will make sure that they use it on the smallest friezes and wait until the new tubes arrive to work larger areas where they would exhaust a full tube.  There are so many surfaces and reflections off those surfaces that I am sure the difference in a dye lot from one panel to another won't show.  

But I also wanted to give some advice on making lemonade from lemons.  When you do find yourself in a place where a dye lot has changed, it is best to blend the colors instead of finishing rows with one and picking up the other.  Do about 3-4 rows where you skip every other stitch in a brick pattern and fill in with the other dye lot to make the transition.  The overall effect will be to mix them enough to make the hard line between them go away.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

How Do I Get Into the Stitch Along?

If you are in the 'system' - meaning that you have or are talking Cabinet of Curiosities (Part I) or the Stumpwork Part II course, then you are able to get to the information needed on the COC Part I page.  That is the first step.

The second step is to sign into NING, that is the private discussion site for my courses.  Perhaps you have never signed up and need a new invitation (email me) or need to do a bit of hunting or requesting (from NING) your password.  It was one that you set up for yourself.  Once in NING, you click on the Groups -> Stitch Along Group and join it.  That allows me to send you internal emails and you will get updates on discussions going on inside that group.  It is a great place to chat about framing up, designing, etc.  You can post pictures inside the discussions too.

Since the point of the Stitch-Along is the posting of progress and talking among us to encourage - that is why I am NOT keeping a mailing list outside of NING because that would just result in things getting set aside again - too passive.  This needs to be active to work.

Now I have to admit something.  I have started already on my casket.  I think it is understandable to everyone that I have to be ahead of everyone as I just can't make a graph come out of nowhere!  I am not that far ahead,  only two months, but it does feel good to have two friezes done.  I just color xeroxed them at 300% today to make graphing them a lot easier - after the xerox came off the machine I did one of those "V-8" moments as I have been struggling with the Trinket Box so much between the tiny size, magnifier glasses, and a new graphing program that doesn't do what I want it to do (at least the customer support guy is good).  And oh my gosh am I am exhausted at the moment from getting all the stitch along support materials ready as well as getting orders out (and those three+ hours of roboting every night is catching up to this old body)

But I did take a picture every day that I worked to show my progress and I am happy to report that doing one in a month is WAY doable.

In fact - that is what I am doing in this lovely picture over the monuments of Paris.  A perfect place to start a casket.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Stitch Along - Design Changes

Ok - now time for the more difficult path for everyone to follow, the designing it yourself path.  Let's start at the top, you don't like the Five Senses Design.  There are two reasons - one is that you have an idea yourself that you want to pursue (right hand side) and the other is that you mostly like it but there is something about the design you want to change.  

Let's treat the modification first (left side).  The first decision is what do you want to modify?  There are many who have already said that they like everything but the Adam and Eve on the top.  Ok, that is 'easy'.  First go through all the designs for double (or flat) caskets tops and see if anything is perfect for you.  The same process if you don't like the friezes, see if anything else 'does it' for you.  If so, you are done and go to the * (on the full diagram) which takes you down the path of getting your linen and putting the design on fabric.  

Perhaps you would like the seven virtues better.  I had already done these same sides (backgrounds) with the seven virtues substituted in them.  You can find it on the class page in the full casket designs.    Maybe you could use a Nelham style top for your casket and put something personalized in the cartouche.  Or it is the background you don't like and want to substitute in different flowers, look
through the library of motifs for something that substitues and fills in the space.

Perhaps you want something entirely different and have it already to go - that is great!  Get some fabric and get ready to start, we will be starting with the smallest friezes on the top of the double casket.  

But it is far more likely that if you are traveling on this side of the diagram, you are in the category of "I want my own design and am stuck".  You have too many ideas or no clue how to move beyond where you are at the moment.  This is where you need to use the power of the NING site.  If you haven't ever logged in, forgot your password, etc. Let me know and I will get you in.  There you can post a new discussion and put a picture in it, anything you are working on or the ideas you are struggling with.  There will be dozens of suggestions in minutes.  Many of the people reading and commenting on the NING site have been through the process already or might know of some resource that would help you.  Among the suggestions is a golden nugget that will help you move forward.  Or the encouragement to trust your decisions or validation that 'something' is off and needs to be swapped out.  I am sure you have showed your design to someone in your family and they just shrugged, not being helpful at all.  At this point you need someone who 'gets it' to look at the design in process (or verbalized ideas) and concur, suggest, or help you with alternative ideas.  

Ok, so you 'can't draw' and many of you might have something personal you want to add - lets say your house.  But you say that you can't draw and you are so frustrated with trying to get the right perspective.  Perhaps you have tried tracing a picture.  Wouldn't it be great if there was a program that could do that for you?  Well there is a piece of online software for taking photos and turning them into coloring pages.  
ReallyColor will do it.  I have done an example here of a picture of my house.  I uploaded the picture and then it gave me about six or so options of line drawings by processing the picture at different light levels (I think) and so more or less detail is given.  I think the result is pretty darn good.  At the least I can take this and trace it and simplify it enough to give me an embroidery design.  It has the right proportions which is sometimes the hardest thing to get when doing a drawing of a known piece of architecture.  You could do this with locations you want (castles, landmarks, cities, etc.)

My house front processed on to get my start
of an embroidery tracing for inside a Nelham oval
I have tried this with people, you could set up the photos (anyone into historical reenactment - that could be soooo cool!) like the poses you see on cabinets and then run them through the coloring page maker.

So see if you recognize the conversion below.  It might just be someone in a very famous jacket.

Faith in the jacket
Now if you just are truly at a place where you have ideas, panels that are just not right, or can't draw a hippo that looks stylistically like the rest of your stuff; it might be time for a professional.  And why not?  These real caskets weren't drawn by the girls, they were done by a draftsman.  And we have one.  Noah Caney is a friend of mine who is an architect/graphic designer/artist and has done all the motifs digitally in the course.  He has traced them all digitally, helped me put together the compositions, and has now designed several caskets for others based on their ideas.  So he 'gets it'.  I have uploaded his
rate sheet on the COC Part I page too.  I know he is doing a few projects at the moment and so it won't be instant, but it is an option.  The other day, he took one of the panels for the flat casket and modified it for the Five Senses casket.  The escutcheon was in the way for the lady's arm on the front and he changed her arm position.  Fantastic!  Look at the fronts of all three and you will see the difference.  Noah has the digital versions of all the motifs in the class and can rearrange things or scale them and fill in some of the background to give you a nice clean tracing design.

I hope that some of these suggestions or bounding the problem more is helping you move beyond the helplessness you are at and you can take the next step.  There is always some point on the curve where the roller coaster gets to the top of the hill and starts to race forward.  Maybe using a few of these suggestions will get you there!


Friday, December 9, 2016

Need Christmas Help for your Little Engineers?

Not a surprise, I get a lot of requests for christmas gift recommendations for little engineers.  For the last two years I have kept a list that I can just easily email out.  After doing so several times just this week already and sending it to my husband to send onwards to others as well, I decided maybe I would just post it!

Sometimes I think I should run a blog for maker kids!  So here are some things that I like and we have as well as given to others often.  I am always interested in creativity, teamwork, fun, laughter, easy to start with instructions, good customer service, and well made (hard for kids to break).  Frustration level should be low in my book - but creativity possibilities should be high.  I can't stand toys that have only one play mode and doesn't last a kid only one age period of their life.  It should be as interesting to an adult as the kid.  I have tried to post these in increasing order of difficulty and age.  But I will let you figure out where the kid in your life is and what they can handle.  I was buying Technic sets (14-18 yrs old) for my five year old so I know that ages are just a guide.

1.  Lift-it Deluxe:  We found this game last summer in Sweden in local languages and brought it
home.  We love it and it is so hilarious and works for all ages.  We pull it out for Thanksgiving with groups, use it to train the robot kids on teamwork and generally laugh like crazy.  Everyone straps a little crane to their head and trys to lift pieces to make the structures seen on cards in pairs.  Great family game!

Actually, make sure you have your camera ready as the pictures will not only be good for blogs but blackmail, weddings, and other uses!

Here are some robot guys doing it for a break!

2.  Little-Bits.  I just love these and their new package (Gizmos and Gadgets) is great with all the cute video that gives you an idea about what these magnetic electrical parts can do.
projects.  We have used these more than any other electrical engineering set we have had (and we have them all).  They are so well thought out and not surprisingly, these like several on the list have come out of the MIT Media Lab.  They are expensive, but just like Legos, very expandable and you never grow out of them.  I have had my kids use them to prototype controllers for their FLL projects, make an automatic hamster feeder, and many other hilarious devices.  They are reusable and have adaptors to connect them to LEGOs.  Product designers are buying them to use them to prototype device concepts and they are in these great and friendly colors that work well for boys and girls.

3. Oz Bots - again another real winner!  Not too bad price wise, I have donated many of these in the inner city, tiny two inch robots that can follow any line you draw.  The super cool thing about them is that you can color code the lines and dashes and circles to make the oz bot do things.  So it is a early way of learning programming and includes art.  There are online resources for them, print out games to use as well as games on your iPad that the oz bot can drive on.  There are then little paper decorations and game pieces you can use to expand on the ozbot.  If you have a kid that doesn't like to build want to encourage to get into robots, this is a fantastic first step.  As well as a good 'purse toy'.  The BIT is the original for drawing and now they have another type EVO which is a more connected social one (haven't tried yet).  They are hard to break.

4.  Chibitronics Circuit Stickers.  These beginner kits are amazingly reasonable in price, especially
for what they are!  I have loved these and have known the developer since she was a graduate student, had a wonderful dinner with her the other night and told her how some of my students are playing with them to back their embroidery so they will light up.  So the kit contains a little guide book, conductive adhesive backed copper tape and these amazing little stickers that are LEDs.  They are reusable and you can go through the book making many different paper art projects that light up.  A fantastic way to teach kids about basic circuits and then do art with them.

5.  Circuit Scribe - this is another development from my alma matter and another research lab.  The
innovation here is a conductive ink that will work in a ball point pen.  I can't tell you how hard that is as someone who has been working in that area for years.  Nanotechnology is the answer.  So now you can draw your circuit lines and then connect electrical devices to them.  This is a kit with magnetic pieces to teach electronic circuits. We have enjoyed it - especially the drawing part.  You can draw direct into the workbook in the larger kits to learn.   This is for pre-teens to teens but is really cool.

There was a very cool commercial for BMW made using this ink pen - worth a quick watch to see what is possible.

6.  Mindstorms.  Hands down most fantastic extension of LEGO.  There is no end to what people do
with it as kids and adults.  There are fantastic books, online resources, you-tube videos, instructibles, projects on LEGOs site, and of course it is the basis of First Lego League.  You own one, you are only three kids away from being the coach of a FLL team.  The best robot system you can buy a kid.  Yes it is expensive, but it make the rest of your LEGOs have a second (and third) life.  It also does go together correctly, the software is constantly being updated and if I have ever had a problem, there is a live person on the phone who will help you and will replace the processor brick if needed.  There are learn to program resources by LEGO and many, many, many universities - almost all open source.  I have never regretted the first kit I bought.  And yes, I own six of them now and we still use the one we bought eight years ago, so that is pretty good return on the investment.

7.  Make Block.  This is now one of my older child's favorite robot building systems.  We met the
creater at our first Maker Faire and now it is quite a big company.  The metal building system is top notch.  Finally they are doing better about the software interface with their new MBot.  I have several of them and have donated several to STEM groups.   We regularly buy more of the blue parts as David has made many different things with them - the latest is a 3-D printer he is working on to build Lego buildings (if he pulls it off - I will let you know - it is a problem the Media Lab has).  This is a great place to go after many of the other things on this list, and as you can see it will bring an accomplished kid builder to a next level.  Hard to find things for those kids.  This has less documentation than the other things on my list but is so high in quality and expansion potential that I have to have it on the list.

8.  Actobotics - Only go here when you have a true total gear head on your hands.  As I have those, I
know that some grandparents and parents have no idea what to go to next for these types of kids.  They have exhausted LEGOs and want to go on.  Where do you go?? Well, if they don't want to do Make Block, then Actobotics is the next level.  There are robot kits there and again, infinitely expandable.  Along with Tetrix, this is the system used for First Tech Challenge.  It is our favorite and yes, we own tons of both systems.  Like $$$$$$$ of them (we did a bill of materials for last year's robot that climbed the 5 foot ladder - $4000).  Again, I only put it in my list because there is at least one person out there who has by the time they have gotten to this list said 'but we already have all that stuff!! What do I do for my kid who has everything!?'.   In fact, I am that parent this year and am struggling to find christmas gifts under $1000 (ok, he has half a machine shop on his list).

9. Make Magazine - the only magazine that comes to the house and the adults and all kids grab it and
pour over it.  If it is crazy and someone has made it - it shows up here.  The advertisements are a great place to find out what is possible.  There are kid projects, adult projects and just amazing visual candy of - wow - that can be made?!  We don't often make anything out of it, but it keeps the creative mind juices going.  With how dumbed down so many toys are and and with video games, this magazine has single-handedly brought back the Radio Shack generation that went to the moon.  Stick a copy in the maker stocking of your choice and see how many people in the family moon over it.  Then someday make a plan to attend a maker-faire by them and your mind will be blown.  Take a child with you - you will be making an engineer that day for sure.  Not a surprise but the online blogs, resources, etc are amazing too.  And there is a store called Maker Shed.  Another great place to look for gifts.  They are also introducing needlework to the 30 and under set too.  Watch out - when I finish with historic embroidery, you will find me in those pages, I just haven't had enough time to start publishing there to take the 20-somethings to the next level.

I have a lot more that we have tried, are trying this Christmas or haven't made the cut because this blog is just too long.  But if it is made, we have it and otherwise, I have already pledged on Kickstarter for it or am part of the test crew (both my son and I work on developments with STEM projects or test for companies).  If this resonates - I can put more up later on getting little kids started.


Stitch Along Decisions - Harmony Casket

Before I get to the much more hairy tree of making changes, I wanted to bring up the decision matrix on the full left side of the diagram about the Harmony Casket.

I am doing TWO stitch alongs this year, one starting now and another starting in June.  That design is on a short, flat casket and will be in full stumpwork.  The instructions are going to be written as I stitch it and those who have been in a COC class can follow along the course for instructions-only price.  You will have many threads in your stash already that can be used and drive down the price of the casket.  That design is shown here and does have three choices for the top (I will be providing instructions for only one of the two lady choices).

So if you want to do a stitch-along and this design is the one you have fallen in love with - you are in a hurry up and wait position for that.

The design panels are already on the COC Part 1 webpage and accessible for you.  If you want to take them and head off in your own technique direction - more power to you!  Go for it.  If you want my detailed stitch by stitch directions, choose your ground fabric and get a short casket and wait for June.

I am suggesting the 40 count old white linen as it is a source we have ongoing and it is very forgiving as a fabric.  Silk satin can catch and pull a float so ripping is harder.  But it is up to you, both will work and be beautiful.

There will be frame up instructions up on the site soon as well, so you can start planning and buying frames, tracing the design, etc. at your leisure.

You might print things out and play with coloring it too.  Since it will be ala-carte, if you don't like my color scheme, you can substitute your own colors in the same threads.  Why not!?


Thursday, December 8, 2016

Stitch-Along Decisions

So you want to do the Stitch Along that starts in January.  There are many options and so the diagram I published yesterday (and was likely unreadable) will help get through them.  Lets take half the diagram and examine it now.

The first decision is do you like the design I am stitching.  It is called the Five Senses Design and if you go to the COC Part I class page and have access to it, you can review the entire design both in three dimensions and in full size tracing diagrams.

This side of the digram assumes that you like it as is.  Great! Your design is set and you are ready to go.  Time to think about the techniques you want to do your piece in so you can select a ground fabric.

If you move down the left hand side and say, I want to work it as a counted work design, you have the choice to use a graph and use the same fabric I am using and producing a graph for those students.  If that is your desire, get a piece of the Montrose linen and start working from the cutting and framing diagram on the site to get ready to stitch.
And note that you should put your casket on order.  We have the choice of putting all the panels on the casket at the end of the stitch along (24 months) or at an intermediate point to liberate our frames, changing the over all costs (i.e. having enough frames to fit all of it). I will be breaking up the monthly stitching with finishing of the box.  Decide when you want the box - but you need to order it ahead to have it there the day you finish the embroidery.

Ok, but say you don't need a graph but maybe want to do it on a finer count than 24 per inch.  So that
Five Senses Design for the Stitch-Along
requires you to trace the pattern onto the linen and choose the exact placement of the colors, kinda like a coloring book.  You can use my color placement as a guide.  So going down that decision tree, choose a count, buy a 36" x 36" piece of linen and start working through the instructions for framing and tracing.  One of the important things to get right when tracing is that the linen is square with the traced design and that the stretched linen isn't bigger than the box side.  So there are things to do and think about in the order you are going to do the tracing and framing (on the sheet).   You then need to place a casket on order for the reasons cited above.

Now what if you like the design and want to embroider it instead?  Maybe go for the full gusto (please - I want to see!) and do stumpwork of those figures.  In that case, you will need a 36" x 36" piece of ground fabric that will hold that embroidery well, and if the background won't be stitched over, is tightly woven enough so glue won't seep through the holes.  An easy way to test is to take some extra paper from your trinket box project and wet it with the glue and place it on the back of a small piece of that linen or fabric you are thinking about and look.  Let it dry and look.  If it looks fine - you are set.

I have already worked with the silk satin and the 40 count linen on the website and so I know those work.  One thing to caution against is using a backing muslin.  Choose a heavy weight silk satin and not a thin one, and remember that teachers often suggest backing with muslin because of the weight of the embroidery on the non-supported silk in a frame.  But ours will be glued to a support.  And the Japanese don't line theirs and it lasts unsupported for hundreds of years.  I haven't ever seen a full piece ever done this way in a museum.  What I have seen is the backing used and then cut away with only about a 1/16" of it showing beyond the heaviest parts of the embroidery.  Not sure when this full muslin on the back showed up in our lexicon.  And it is used slavishly like it came down from god.  Why not to do it? Because it will be the part that is glued to the paper and the box and not the silk ground that doesn't have embroidery on it.  When people have asked, I encourage them to cut away the excess backing because their embroidery background will bubble away from the casket.  The only way it won't is if the glue seeps through the muslin enough to bond the silk to the muslin.

After the choice is made, you then join the rest of the flow diagram and get to cutting, framing and tracing via the document on the class site.

Tomorrow - we go down the fork of how to make changes to the design


Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Which Casket - Summary

Ok - so now we are through the 'Which Casket' discussion as well as an examination of some of the other issues that keep us from having fun and letting our fear of failure get in our way.  So the full decision matrix looks like this:

I will be posting this so you can print it out in the COC part I class page.  

The next thing is to go through the design decision process for those who are jumping aboard the Stitch-Along so you can be ready to start with your linen and tracing or graphs and are framed up.  That diagram looks like this:

Don't worry, the next few blogs will go through all the steps, one color at a time.  Now I can't help but mention the friendship algorithm by Dr. Sheldon Cooper.  A fantastic joke and not far off our diagrams here.  :-)  Everything can be diagramed as a decision algorithm it seems - from making friends to getting embroidery ready.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

The Casket Toy Contest - Entries Due December 31st

Just a break in the blog thread to give a reminder that there is a month left until the entries are due for the Casket Toy Contest and the entries have already started arriving in my email!  I am getting excited.

There is plenty of time to finish up your piece, design a new one or get started.  They are supposed to be smallish.

If you don't know what I am talking about - look at this older blog posting to find out the details and read the next several for inspiration.

Here is the link to the contest rules as well.


Monday, December 5, 2016

You're Worth It!

The next emotion that I want to discuss that stops some from starting their piece is the fear of not finishing the project.  Actually it is more complex than that, it is the fear of having someone else imply that you are wasting money if you haven't finished.  Today I was talking to someone and I called it the Embroiderer's Guild equivalent of Catholic Guilt.

Yes, there is enormous pressure that we let others put on us to finish - that the output of anything that we women do is supposed to be a tangible object.  For some reason, we are not allowed to just enjoy ourselves.  You are hearing the voices in your head right now - yours, your friends, your mother's - all justifying something they want to have or enjoy with all kinds of complex arguments as if just enjoying yourself is evil.

I have heard it and so have you.  Sometimes out of my own mouth. "I will take this seminar class because I am going to use it as a Christmas gift".  Have you ever heard any gentleman protest that he is going fishing to catch a birthday gift for Grandma?  No, he is going to relax and enjoy himself by sitting in a boat for hours knowing it is likely to end in nothing, perhaps with a friend and a cooler.  It is time to be honest with ourselves, we don't spend hundreds of hours on a project because we only wanted the end product.  We love the PROCESS.  That is where we get all our joy.  It is rhythmic and progress at the end of a hard day of never-ending picking up after kids.  It is the love of colors and tactile pleasure.  It is using a guild meeting to get out of the house and have female friends and getting to see the cute things they have made.  And as you are stretching yourself to design, it is the excuse to read that book on renaissance history and go to the museum exhibit and sit on NING and converse with people all over the world and take another class to 'polish your skills' for the project.  And maybe start to watch auctions for examples to look at (and maybe buy).

If we had just wanted the end product - we would have found a way to buy it or something similar.  How many of us make quilts when we can have something similar from China or a lovely piece the Amish have made.  I can go to an antique faire and buy a really amazing antique quilt for around $500 instead of spending 10 times that much on my stash of reproduction fabrics.  (again that voice in my head says something like 'well we can use the quilts I make' to justify that lopsided monetary argument).  Sorry, the real reason is I LOVE fabric and playing with the colors.  The end product is the EXCUSE for all the stuff in-between that gives us joy.

So start to take the joy and make that the point.  Start with the thought that this will not be your only casket and just start for the fun of it, that nothing you do that gives you joy wastes money and damn it - you are worth it!  (Tell the whispers in your ear that Tricia said so!)

I have gotten so many emails from students who have admitted they haven't started and maybe never will, but they are so enjoying the journey.  That makes me happy as they have gotten to nirvana.  They are no longer fretting - but living inside their passion.  In fact, sadly we have had more than a handful of fellow students who took the class knowing they would not make it to the last lesson but who conversed with me and you all - wanting to drink as much beauty and photos of their passions while they underwent treatments they weren't sure would help.  I would cry when a husband or sister would email me and let me know the fight was over but that they had enjoyed being with us virtually when they no longer could stitch.

So yes, perhaps if you start your casket you might never finish it.  Your sides will grace your walls or the walls of your family - just make sure that the memories behind all of those pieces are happy memories of the journey you allowed yourself to take through every bit of research, every picture you looked at for inspiration, the get-togethers you had, the chatting on NING with someone so far away who was a soul mate and who understood your passion and the threads you stroked and stitched and ripped out.  Don't make it a guilt object of shame that you didn't finish it.  I am thinking of attaching a note to a box of samplers that I have never framed so my sons can find it after I am gone.

Dear boys - don't look at this pile of finished work and think of it as wasted time and for some sad, pathetic reason were never framed.  Not a bit of it was regretted.  It wasn't the finished piece that I needed at the time, it was the process and the rhythm and the comfort.  Each time I pull out the box I say to myself - oh look at these old friends!  They helped me through so many times.  Happy times and trying times.  This one helped me get through my PhD dissertation writing.  This one was in my hands as I fretted during your birth, helping to lower my blood pressure in the hospital and this one kept me busy as you were in the Nic-U.  This piece was worked on my first trip to Europe on the endless and amazing train rides.  This was an experiment in green linen.  Here I was obsessed with learning to use metallic Kreinik threads as a teen.  This was a seminar piece where I met lifelong friends.  Please look at them with those eyes, and then find someone for whom they give joy and pass on the old friends.  They were all stepping stones to something else I wanted and I had fun - and I was worth it.
So get out your coloring pencils and your half finished design and start coloring and humming and have fun.  Lay out the threads and organize them and make sample stitches on linen and make decisions without the guilt of never finishing and stop caring what others say.  Just look at them and say "I am having fun and I am worth it" - surprisingly your progress will actually go faster.

Go figure!

Sunday, December 4, 2016

The Fear of Failure

I chastised one of my robot parents the other day as he jokingly gave his daughter a hard time about the robot run she was practicing.  The language was all about how she hadn’t gotten enough points and wasn’t perfect.  I pointed my finger at him – father of four girls – and said ‘you’re part of the problem!’.  He knew what I meant as I had shared my recent blog with him.  I meant that girls are chastised for not doing things perfectly the first time and it starts to keep them from stretching themselves, whereas sit back and listen to the language we use with boys.  “Get out there and give it the old college try”, “Give it one more chance”, “Keep at it”, “Nice try”.  Notice that not once do we chastise them for not being perfect.  It makes me mad.

So fast forward to your life and realize that some of the anxiety related to starting a large, creative project is due to your pre-programmed fear of failure, to not being the perfect little girl.  Well – screw that crud because that is what it is; crud. 

Now lets talk about the truth to getting any complex and creative endeavor done – building a winning robot or designing and stitching a casket.  There will be a TREMENDOUS amount of failure involved.  Sometimes I don’t even realize how programmed everyone else is to be perfect or fearing failure as failure is all around me and I am so comfortable with it.  There is no class in “how to build something no one ever has done before” – what happens is the maker explores, prototypes and makes lots of false starts while trying to figure out the best way to go about it, throwing away many attempts.  I can give you lots of advice to warn you about pitfalls, suggest going through checklists to be sure you have thought through possible issues before you start a path of action, but that only saves you from some of the problems.  And the truth be told, I only know these because MY first attempt FAILED. 

So in full disclosure here, I am going to show some of my failures in getting to the final products and how I make peace with it.  Some failures are things that can be removed and redone.  Some turn into other projects.  Some just have to be accepted if they can't be fixed.  And some show you to a new and better idea and that is just what the creative process is all about.  Those of you who have taken my classes for a long time may have noticed that sometimes there is progress in my photos that is out of order from the text.  Well, I failed and decided another way was better.  And often I try to include my failures as part of the instructions.  In other words - if you find yourself in this place - here is how you fix it.

My Stumpwork Mirror -
 Looks great from the front
Failure #1 is my stumpwork mirror frame.  I juggled writing the instructions while making it and in the final days I was so excited yet also tremendously scared, as I had no idea what I was doing – I was writing it as I went along!  But the lesson needed to be posted and I needed to finish so I was thinking about that when I pasted my embroidery onto the finished wooden form. 

Think about the line in the directions to ‘be sure to mark the top of the frame’ before you paste on the embroidery.  You know the front is symmetrical and the bottom and top look the same.  Well the back doesn’t.  Mine is upside down.

Yes – crud.  And so the easel doesn’t work.  Well, I could throw the whole thing away.    But how many people would ever know?  (Ok now everyone does….)  I can put a hanger on the back and hang it on a wall.  Or I can get a iron plate rack and let it rest angled on a table as I had intended and just move on.              

Turn it around and you realize that I pasted
the embroidery upside down
I have moved on.  It is beautiful and people see it and freak out over the figures, bugs, etc.  No one yet has noticed that the easel is on upside down.  And I have saved many of you from the same fate.   And as time went on, I realized that soon I will just have a plexi face made for it and will end up hanging it on a wall with the plexi over it to protect it from the build up of dust that will prematurely age it.  So the easel doesn’t even matter. 

Failure #2, I can’t seem to get my Flat Casket designed.  Ugh.  The casket is even all finished with the papers and everything.  I want the four elements (Water, Earth, Wind, and Fire) but I have found three different allegorical representations of these and have gone through so many versions on the sides of the casket.  Noah has copied even more of the themed motifs for me from old pieces so I can try.  So far all of the motifs have come from mirrors and because of that, I can’t seem to get the symmetry to work on a casket.  I think I will have to give up and work the motifs into a mirror where they truly want to be.  I have to say that I LOVE the water element.  I just want to do that grotto and ship so bad.  But
A front for the Elements Casket with Earth and Water
trying to share the space nice and symmetrical.
I have issues with the Wind and Fire sides - so boring.  So I periodically print it out and tape it to my casket and walk around it and think.  It has been over a year that I have been doing it and the problem has not been solved yet.  It might be time to experiment with a different design idea for this box.

This is my favorite version of Water.  Love that ship.  
In fact I have many partially designed sides, caskets, trinket boxes, and mirrors on my computer.  Sometimes they are abandoned and led to something that was better.  Sometimes they just represent an idea that won't work or I didn't like as much as I thought when I started drawing it.  None are wasted work, they are just part of the 99 ways on the way to a better light bulb.  And I am comfortable with that, I know that every time I do a side that doesn't work out I am actually learning and discovering the rules for what works well on a piece and it makes it easier to design one or look for a new solution.

The Fire side.  Not working for me.
What do I put in the rest of the white
space?  More fire?! Ugh.
So hopefully you are understanding that the design process is messy.  There are more false starts than you can shake a stick at.  And that is before we start embroidering! One of the benefits of looking at all the historic pieces up close is being able to see the false starts. I can't tell you how many pieces I have turned over - 17th century stumpwork and 18th century crewel pieces - to find the first draft tracing on the back!  They messed up and then turned the linen over and drew it again!  It makes me much more comfortable with my own mistakes to know that it isn't because I am a screw up, it is just a natural step in the creative process.  So I just try to have a bit of extra linen on hand 'in case'.

So I have to give an analogy now.  It is easy to fall into the trap of the master plan.  We do this thing
Our FAT contraption - no master plan, it just evolves.
every year called FAT at MIT.  Your team builds a 2 foot by 8 foot part of a giant chain reaction.  We do it in only 1-2 days and it always follows a predictable pattern.  My dad gets nervous because we don't have a 'plan'.  We have an assortment of cool ideas that everyone has spouted out and has run off and gathered the parts to put together the separate units.  All of the rest of us have gotten really comfortable with expending effort to try out an idea and accepting that some number of them will fail - ruining materials or costing us time.  But in that process we find out the problems and unexpected wonderful effects we can build on - things we just can't predict.  So for awhile we have to ignore him and his upsetness because we are all bulling forward without a master plan.  Then at some point hours later, it starts to become obvious that parts are starting to come together and we will 'make it' and have yet another really cool device.  But to get there, we all have to join hands and jump into the unknown and try things and be willing to throw many of the ideas away.  If we waited until we had a perfect master plan - a recipe to follow - we would fail in the end because it wouldn't work.  We have to have the minor failures along the way to actually succeed.

A side of a casket never finished - but soooo lovely and sold for $$$.  Was this someone's failure?
For those of you who are used to doing a sampler from a pattern, this is likely the most scary part of
becoming a designer.  To realize that there really isn't ever a master plan - there is a direction and a feeling you are trying to get and to accept that you will change your mind as you go.  You will end up with a box that has a few extra stumpwork apples in it, a partially made skirt in what is now the wrong colors, a face that looked scary and you might be making a stuffed tree trunk to cover up something you don't like on the partially finished embroidery.  None of it is wasted work, it was part of the process.  And in some cases, you might realize that you need the design to be different on that panel and you will abandon it.  Perhaps you will finish it and frame it on the wall (or give it to someone).  And it might then be like some of these antiques which are obviously panels that never made it on a casket.

Your design and colors and plan for techniques will evolve.  And some days you will leave your frame across the room and just stare at it...for a month trying to realize what comes next.  Always good to have another panel in process so you can turn to that when you are stuck on the other.  Nothing really great comes without the blood (can cover that up with a bug!), sweat and tears.

So embrace the possibility of failure and jump in with both feet...