Friday, January 19, 2007

some things are meant to last.

I can't remember exactly when I started this piece of needlework, but I know I was at least a few years into a long distance cyber friendship that was sparked based on both of us planning to homeschool our then-toddlers. Needlework packs up small -- nothing more than a piece of linen and a ball or two of thread -- so it's a good choice when traveling. It starts with a single stitch on a blank canvas and grows from there, kind of like a friendship starts with a single connection that, if we're lucky, blooms into something more as time goes on.

I remember working on the top portion while camping with friends in CT, sitting around a campfire, having a beer, and laughing...when? Oh, maybe four or five years ago. I can't remember exactly what year that was, but I do remember Sue Adams asking who it was for and I said it was destined for my friend in North Carolina...eventually. No rush. We were in touch every day by email and I knew where to find her whenever I got around to finishing this project. I remember saying that she too gave gifts that were handcrafted with love, so she'd understand and appreciate what's behind it -- a rare trait in this instant gratification, walmartized, blech consumer blech society.

Then I put it away for a while and meandered in and out of other projects and lifestuff along the way. I remember stitching some parts quietly in the early morning hours of each day on our trip to Italy in 2004, specifically one early morning on the balcony of our bed and breakfast in Sorrento, looking out over the Bay of Naples with Mount Vesuvius in the distance. And when I had a chance, I'd scoot into an internet cafe to send an email update back to Connecticut and Pittsburgh and, of course, North Carolina.

I remember working on the alphabet and other portions while were in Alaska in 2005, stitching in beautiful surroundings while Scott fished and the kids played, looking up at the glorious mountains and the bald eagles soaring above us. I can clearly remember packing my stitching up after just such a day and heading down to the ice cream shop in beautiful Valdez, where the kids had a waffle cone and I sent a message to friends and family.

And in between, during all this time, there were daily emails back and forth, a friendship growing as the finished needlework portions grew. Somewhere along the way, we even met in real life for two fun weekends, one with the two of us at her parents' place in South Carolina and another when our families met in Washington D.C. -- the only in-real-life meetings of a friendship that was probably over five years old at those points!

In a mind-boggling and fantastic twist, that family from North Carolina relocated for a job opportunity in Connecticut a year and a half ago. And still there were daily emails, but now with the added bonus of an occasional visit in real life too!

A few weeks ago, it occurred to me that this friendship is probably reaching a 10-year anniversary and both of us are celebrating our 40th birthdays, only eight days apart, and I could probably bring this project to completion if I focused. So it's easy to remember stitching some of the drawn thread work just after Christmas 2006 and the hardanger section at the bottom on my own 40th birthday a week ago.

To further exemplify the long-term nature of this project, I'm especially laughing at myself to realize that when I started this thing, I was able to stitch it at dusk while camping in the middle of a grove of trees and now I need my trusty bifocals and a good, strong light positioned such that my hand does not cast shadows over the linen if I want to see well enough to get those stitches positioned correctly. What a long strange trip it's been. ha!

Framed over the last 24 hours and presented last night in celebration of the 40th birthday of my friend...

The saying on this sampler is:

"Stitched in the tradition of an earlier time,
when gifts of the heart were completed only by hand."

This gift of the heart has been in progress for a long time, but I'm sure what it represents will continue for much, much longer.

The details:
Pattern: Only By Hand, by Emie Bishop, my favorite needlework designer
Fabric and thread: 24 count ivory linen, size 8 and 12 ecru perle cotton, DMC floss
Stitching techniques: Hardanger, drawn thread, counted cross stitch
Frame: from the oh-so-wonderful attic stash, custom re-sized by Scott :-)
Framing technique: lacing, as taught by Thistle Needleworks in a series of classes that I took about 20 years ago
Modifications: Many, many. Recharted the alphabet to include the J, which was purposely omitted on the published pattern. Had a little email chat with Emie Bishop about this along the way. (I also talked with her once before, to show her Leah's xmas stocking , inspired by one of Emie's patterns.) Skipped the queen stitches in the upper grid because I abhor queen stitch. (It's the only stitch I don't enjoy. I gave it a go again this time and still don't like it. Too much fuss, not enough of a result to be worth it, IMO.) Used DMC floss instead of silk, simply because we have so much DMC from the prizes when Scott's entry won the Best of Cross Stitch, Best of Needlework, and Best of Show categories at the Big E years ago. Wove every other linen thread back into the base cloth to right and left of drawn thread sections, instead of satin stitch block on either side, for a cleaner look. Eliminated the disembodied hands from the floral vine section; substituted more flower buds and tendrils. Recharted words in the saying so "only by hand" is all lower case text. Spiffed up the bottom hardanger heart with Algerian eyes around the perimeter and dove's eyes in the central hardanger grid. Posted by Picasa


Blogger CBRE B. said...

What a beautiful piece of work to honor the beautiful friendship you two have. I'm sure she is as impressed with it as I am.

7:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wait--as if this weren't enough--

:-) She also made me peanut soup. Mmmmmmemories of Jazzfest.

I hope that you all have friends who understand and treat you this well!

8:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

WOW! What a testament to friendship! Gorgeous!

9:45 AM  
Blogger handpfeather said...

The final product is breath-takingly beautiful. Friends who understand this passion are the best kind to have & I'm glad we're getting to know you and the crew!

10:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

JoVE of wrote:

That is stunning. And what a great occasion to complete it. I laughed a bit about the over-40 eyesight, though. I find stockingnette socks are good for travelling as they are small and can be done without looking for the most part.

BTW, we are starting to plan a 3 month trip to northern Europe for the fall (late September finishing with Xmas with family in England). Lund (Sweden), Amsterdam, Paris are on the list. My partner has to do some work in Bonn and Brussels as well. Any and all tips for great places to include (particularly for Tigger and I while he is engaged in his thing in Brussels and Bonn). I know you went to Bruges. I'd love ideas for interesting places to stay, eat or visit that might not be in the normal guides (or ones that are of particular interest to textile folks).

6:29 AM  

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