Consider this tea towel your warning!

Alert! Alert! Durham has been over run with lunatic squirrels!  I see the seething monsters lurking in the shadows on my morning jogs, plotting to take me down and pierce my throat with that single sharp fang.

Plotting your doom with their dead eyes.

Let this tea towel serve as a public service announcement. Because nothing says, "Run for Your Life, Fool!" like red gingham, no?

Stitched this up as a little wedding gift for the talented Monique (she designed my blog banner!) and her new husband Dan, a ridiculously cute, cool couple. The kind of people you'd hate if they weren't so genuinely warm.

Chain stitch in variegated Valdani cotton thread, color M26.

Monique's family is from The Netherlands, so I clearly identified the deranged animal in Dutch, with the help of master stitcher/blogger/designer Nicole of Follow the White Bunny and &Stitches fame. (Be sure to follow Nicole on Twitter, too. She is a generous tweeter about her creative process!)

Long-armed Feather Stitch border.

"De Getikte Eekhoorn van Durham." Sounds even more terrifying in Dutch, doesn't it? People who think Germans have the scariest words for the most innocuous things need to plumb the depths of the freaking Dutch language. Ja! We're talking Biblical, medieval woodcut scary.

Can gingham ever be stitched into without irony? 

Hmmm... Perhaps average adults don't fear gingham, squirrels or the Dutch language. Screw average and take cover. De Getikte Eekhoorn is out there, mofos.

My heart cannot take it

Do Not Flake on Me is done, sent and delivered to the Northern California stitch artist Lisa Leggett as part of the Phat Quarter Spring Swap from MrXStitch.

Do Not Flake on Me, 2012

It was great fun to stitch up another "Do Not" embroidery. I've written here before about how much I love taking the hard graphics of hazard signs and turning them into soft stitch. This piece reminded me how much that aesthetic appeals to me.

Do Not Flake on Me snugged up to Do Not Enter, 2010.

Yes, it's a snowflake and a prohibition circle. I have come to hate the cold. Living alone for the first time in my life, I negotiated the darkness and chill of my first winter by myself in the world. It was hard. Even though this was a mild winter, I spend far too much time shivering, wrapped up in an electric blanket in my poorly insulated apartment.

My simple sketch.

As I was stitching the piece I wished that the cold, dark nights of winter be gone, both literally and figuratively.  Let it be Spring again and, dare I say it, Summer. Let there be warmth in the air and in my heart. Let there be music and friendship. To much heartbreak in recent years. Let the winter be gone.

Thick red fill stitch surrounded by fine gauged chain stitch. 

And it is gone. There is warmth, again. A fragile warmth, but it's building. And the warmth is coming from me. I am making it for myself, with the help of my friends and family. And I am hopeful. 

Do Not Eat! at sea with Salvaged Mutiny... And my fun at the seashore

In its new home on ship

Can I tell you how happy I am that Do Not Eat! finished its journey to Salvage Mutiny (a.k.a. the textile artist Joanne Donne)?  The little embroidery has a new home on her ship, where it will take other journeys with its new owner, surrounded by a crazy collection of unstitched hazard symbols like the one above. I'd be in trouble surrounded by all of those signs!

Joanne blogged about it here, on her wonderfully named blog, "A Crafter at Sea." Her artwork is amazing and worth spending gobs of time exploring.

Yes! It's a self portrait while biking...skillz!

I'm back from a beautiful weekend at Nags Head on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Feeling sleepy but recharged. I trekked over dunes at Jockey's Ridge, wandered along the beach, hiked through swaps and wetlands, rode bicycles (which made me feel like a 10-year-old, pony-tailed girl) and luxuriated in the sunshine, fresh breezes and new smells. And in the fabulous company and conversation of my traveling companion.

Please, no martinis at Jockey's Ridge, NC.
(Photo & caption by Andy)
Stitching my small gifts for friends and feeling more confident about my bigger self-portrait, which I plan to sketch and design this week. In my darker moments, I wonder how I deserve all of this pleasure, happiness and creativity and I fear that it will come crashing down upon me.

New hazard sign to create and stitch: "No Darkness Allowed!"

Do Not Eat!

No really, eat... please!

Photos from my finished swap piece for the Phat Quarter food-themed swap by MrXStitch. Shipped it to Salvaged Mutiny.

Along side the bigger Do Not Enter embroidery

I love taking the crispness of hazard graphics and converting them into the soft wonkiness of stitched pieces.

Back stitch as fill stitch with chain stitch framing
the circle

The layers of stitches piled almost on top of each other.

The fork tines looking all wavy and strange instead of hard-edged. Imagine those fabric spears between your lips.

Farewell, little embroidery.

Inching along, or No, I don't have an eating disorder...

Why do I always get so carried away?

Inching my way through my swap piece for the Phat Quarter food-themed swap. Getting closer. Most of the fill stitch is complete. I like the shimmering quality of all of the packed in back stitch in luminous DMC 321.

I have some detailed work to do on black cup, knife and fork and some fine gauge chain stitch to do around the thick red hazard circle. And then it will be ready to mount and send off to Salvaged Mutiny.

I'm a little worried that this piece will fan the fears that I have an eating disorder of some kind, but it shouldn't. I picked the design because I love hazard symbols, NOT because I don't eat! Nor am I telling anyone else not to eat. C'mon... it's a hazard symbol!

Like this one. I made earlier this year.

Now back to it! I want to finish it before I leave for Virginia on Friday to see the fabulous Keefie. Time to stitch until my fingers are bloody and raw, peeps.


Getting carried away with fill stitch

I love heavy fill stitch on my embroidered pieces. I love the texture and the sheen of the thread all piled up together. But I always underestimate how long it takes to stitch all that fill!

Back stitch in red.

So I'm late, once again, for my swap piece for Salvaged Mutinity. Sorry! Fortunately she is in some remote part of the world and not able to receive mail, so even if I was done, I couldn't send it. But I feel terrible.

I love the texture.

Stitching is an unbelievably slow, repetitive process. Just have to keep putting the needle into the fabric. Again and again.

Damn, I love it.

Andy Warhol drew me a heart

When I was very young, I met Andy Warhol and he drew me this picture.

I love how crooked the heart is!

My meeting with Warhol has some odd details, which I will write about another time.

Once I finish this pink biohazard pillow, my next stitching project is to embroider this Warhol message.  The search is on for good background fabric. I'm just not sure what I want... Any ideas are welcome!

And now, a pink biohazard pillow, in progress

To me, the biohazard symbol is thing of great elegance.

How can something that warns us against such menace as medical waste be so lovely, with its graceful circles and arcs?  Oh, Dow Chemicals, you employed a talented designer back in the 1960s.  (I’m sure he smoked and drank scotch in his office to get through his days.)

I’m trying to stitch it up in pink on a simple quilted pillow top that I made in colors that cheer me. 

My first attempt to transfer the biohazard symbol onto the dark fabric center, using a white, washable transfer pencil on my light box, failed. I just couldn’t make out the image well enough to use it as a guide to stitch.

So I traced the image onto Sulky Solvy, and taped that onto the fabric. I’m stitching the outline through the Sulky Solvy, which isn’t as pleasant as stitching through fabric alone.

Stitching is a visceral experience for me and It just feels slightly naughty to force the needle through the plastic film… but it is kind of fun, too. I love the little pop sound that the Sulky Solvy makes with each stitch.  Delightfully strange, kind of like the biohazard symbol.

Inflammable means flammable? What a country!

So says Dr. Nick Riviera.

This is a piece that I stitched up about 6 months ago but never got around to stretching.  I stitched it on a single layer of Kona Cotton.

I can see so much more puckering and pulling in the piece, especially with the heavy long and short fill stitch in the flame.

I can see improvement in my more recent stitching. I put a lot into this piece, though, and I learned a lot.

It is a process, learning to stitch.  That's really all I can ask for.  Feeling oddly blah today.  Got to take it stitch by stitch.  Maybe I should watch some Simpsons and gather some more wisdom from Dr. Nick and his Upstairs Hollywood Medical School training!

Luna likes it. My sweet little high contrast puppy!

Little Hans Cracks Heads

How to memorialize your little nephew Hans, all grown up and cracking hippie heads?

This is how. 

I'm not mocking riot cops, here, mind you.  I'm not praising them, either.  I was in a riot, once, in Paris in 1998, and it wasn't fun.  I hadn't intended to be in a riot and I did not like the dudes with the masks and the sticks.  But this piece isn't about the politics of dissent or peaceful demonstrations gone wrong.  It is just about the image.

I found this crazy sign on a website somewhere while researching hazard symbols and fell in love...

Stitched it up on this fabric that, to me, looks the the wallpaper of sweet, alcoholic Aunt Hortense (not a real person)...

And this is what I got.

Satin stich is hard!  I used it for the outline of the face mask and I need more practice.  I really, REALLY love the spiderweb wheel (a.k.a woven circle) stitch that I used for the face mask bolt.  I want to use this stitch all of the time, now.  I stitched a decorative border around Hans with fern stitch, which I also really enjoy.

Today I had my fiber arts group, String Thing, in the morning, and then crafting with Juline and Katherine later this afternoon.  Yippee!  I have a kernel of an idea for a little project that I may feature in the etsy shop I share with Juline (that I've been neglecting horribly.) We'll see if these dark little objects make it from my mind and sketchbook into reality. And whether they are worthy of putting up for sale. 

Ah, Hans...  what a cold, hard hunk you are...

Do Not Enter! (Not really... Please enter)

I finished and hooped my Do Not Enter embroidery!  Yah!

I just love stitching up these signs.  I have a flammable warning sign finished and ready to stretch, too.  I'm still fairly new to embroidery and I find that the pieces with heavy fill stitch have a real tendency to pucker and pull. I've gotten a bit better in my most recent piece. I think that the trick is to pull the fabric really taut while I'm doing the stitching.  Hopefully future pieces will come out smoother.

The fabulous Juline took this shot of the sign in action in Italy this fall.  Thank you, Juline, for capturing this image out in the world, doing the hard work for which it was designed! I had initially thought this was a German sign, but it looks like it pops up in other countries.

Some details for the embroidery geek in my heart...

Thread: DMC, six strand floss in colors 310 and 321.

Stitches used:
Long and short stitch in for the hand
A kind of "brick" back stitch for the red ring
Back stitch for the figure
Chain stitch in black around the red ring.

Despite the message this embroidery depicts, I don't want to keep people way!  I actually want to bring people closer to me and my world (hence the blog) and get closer to other people's passions.  In 2011, I want to embrace the world... or at least some of the lovely folks in it.

So don't let this pushy, stitched little man keep you away from me.  PLEASE!

Riot Police Ahead - New embroidery in progress

I'm not sure why you would need a hazard sign to warn that Riot Police are out and about, but I found this wonderful sign design on a German hazard symbol webpage.

This is a new embroidery piece I just started.

The first attempt was on blue fabric with white floss, but I decided it needed something a little more friendly and unnerving, so I'm stitching it up on this pink and orange fabric I found in the clearance bin at a local quilt shop.  The selvedge says, "Bellbottom by Jennifer Paganelli for Free Spirit, Westmister Fibres," which sounds like an oddly complicated name.

I bought tons of this fabric. To me it looks like the wallpaper of a wonderfully wacky great-aunt.

My first new project of 2011.  I really do love these hazard signs, even if I don't entirely understand them. I finished the Do Not Enter piece with the angry head and the big black hand. Now I just have to hoop it up for display. I'll post photos when I pull it together.

I suspect there are a lot of these pieces in my future.  Menace is all around us!  Nothing protects loved ones like an embroidered warning sign.

Ever so slowly... progress

Being back at my corporate day job is proving harder than I'd hoped in terms of mustering any creative energy.  I drive home in the darkness and my mind feels dulled by the work I do.  I find I just want to sit on the sofa and drool, but it is only my first week back, so I'm hoping this won't last forever. That is just too bleak.

Stitching is the only thing I have the energy for, but fortunately, I LOVE STITCHING!

I've made some progress on my Do Not Enter embroidery.  Is it indelicate to say you love what you're making?  Too bad if it is, because this piece makes me oddly happy.  Even if I can't quite manage to start new projects or even do much sketching, just thinking about creating other pieces of embroidery gives me a happy jolt.

Aside from this embroidery, I have lots to work on in the next few weeks before Christmas... a present to finish sewing for my mother and five ornaments for the String Thing ornament swap next Sunday.  My goal is to try to build on my strength each week.  Drag my mind back from the drain of the beige, RTP, work cube to the fertile land of creative play!

Please send me your best wishes in these efforts, friends.  I can use all the help I can get with these terrible blues.

Do Not Enter, Fräulein!

Just a few close up shots on the progress of my German "Do Not Enter" embroidery.

I'm trying a new fill stitch for the big red circle -- backstitch as fill stitch.  I'm loving the woven quality of the stitches, although they are profoundly imperfect.  But the imperfections are part of the handmade process, no?  Each stitch is a decision and a test... can I get the next stitch into the exact center of the previous row's stitch?

Of course I can't!

Embroidery is weirdly moving to me.  Just thread going into fabric, but there is something so textural and primal about it.  And there are so many hazard signs and simple images to translate into fabric and floss.  I'm grateful.

Fingers are sore!

Yikes! My fingers are killing me from doing this long-and-short fill stitch on my German Do Not Enter embroidery - but the hand is done!

This is part of my hazard sign series of embroideries.  For this one I used two layers of fabric.  The top layer is Kona Cotton in white and I added a muslin layer behind it, which was recommended by my wonderful embroidery teacher, Rebecca Rinquist, from the Squam Art Workshop I attended last May. Rebecca was an inspiring teacher and I'm so excited that she has a blog about her amazing embroidery and other artwork. Check it out here:

For the big red circle around the hand and man, I'm going to try doing the fill stitch in back stitch. I think that will give it an unusual texture and will hopefully be easier on my fingers!

No radioactive material in these felties

Since I was a wee lass in New York City, I was always attracted to radiation signs and fallout shelter signs.  In fact, until I was an adult, I honestly thought that the fallout shelter symbol was an official symbol of the NYC public school system, because it seemed like every PS had this oddly comforting sign attached to the brick face.  Embarrassing, but true.

I often wear an embroidered radiation symbol button/brooch that I made and I'm working on a series of radiation and other hazard symbol embroidered pillows, so why not bring these happy little guys to my world of felt holiday ornaments?
I think that these are perfect for when elves and candy canes don’t fit your edgy holiday mood. I'm starting a collection of not-quite-right Christmas decorations.

I made these from a wool/rayon blend felt and embroidered them with a questionable “Ho” on each propeller, which sounds a little nastier then I'd intended. They are very lightly padded with quilt batting dangle from a string of black ric rac.

I like ornaments that acknowledge the darker side of Christmas... the alcoholic grandma, the brother-in-law with a secret, second family, the burned, inedible ham, the extra Valium a girl has to take to face her mother's magnifying glass... that kind of thing.

(My grandmothers had other problems, trust me, but they didn't drink, and they are long dead. As far as I know, my only brother-in-law has just the one family and I don't eat mammals, but you get the idea!)

UPDATED: These are now listed at my new etsy shop that I started with the hugely talented Juline,!

Also, OJ Designs will be at the craft market at the Durham Farmers' Market on Saturday, Nov. 13th.