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. 

Stitch-speration at CAM Raleigh

Happily, I have lots of Stitch-speration in my life at the moment.

Wild colors and outlines at CAM's ArtHouse party. O & Andy.

On Friday I attended the uber fun ArtHouse 2012 party at CAM Raleigh, the year-old contemporary art museum in Raleigh. Aside from enjoying myself wildly (chatting with break dancers, pulling on the mustache of an Hunter S. Thompson wannabe, having a custom, airbrushed trucker hat made for me by an artist, speaking to everyone who caught my eye and grooving with my seriously hot squeeze and my girl Juline) I took great pleasure in the artwork they had on display as part of a silent auction fundraiser.

Many artists were represented, but if I had to describe a particular commonality between the artwork, I'd say it was heavy on hard lines, colors and graphics. And images like that are particularly inspiring to me... I want to turn the hard edges of designs into soft, wonky stitches onto fabric.

Tehran Techno by Behrouz Hariri, 2012

I was giddily surprised that I won the sole auction that I bid on, taking home this wonderful print called "Tehran Techno" by Toronto-based artist Behrouz Hariri. It is simply amazing to have this in my house to inspire me!

Detail from Do Not Flake on Me, 2012.
Soft stitching on hard edges. 

Finishing up my swap piece for the Phat Quarter Spring swap. ALMOST done. Just need to finish a ring of fine chain stitch, wash the piece and hoop it.

As usual, I have too many ideas for next projects. Oy!

Doing Flips for Doaflip's Mr. Burns' Cookie Pillow

My Phat Quarter Food Swap piece arrived from Emma in the U.K. and, can I just say, it is flipping brilliant.

On my lap. I want it next to me at all times!

Emma (a.k.a. doaflip, who blogs at Flip-a-dee-doo-dah) made me an elegant little cross stitched pillow depicting the fake business name that C. Montgomery Burns provides to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission when they come to smack down his skinny ass in the "Homer Goes to College" episode of The Simpsons.

“Ah, General Tso, you were a formidable opponent, but your chicken is delectable!”

That's right. Simpsons' Nerd Girl O now owns a piece of Springfield paraphanelia stitched just for her! And I'm flipping out. FLIPPING OUT. I am like Lisa with her pony. Could this be any cooler? The answer is: NO.

In all its glory. 

How did this scrumptious little piece come into my greedy little mitts? From the Phat Quarter Food-Themed Swap, via MrXStitch and flickr. (For this swap, I made one of my "Do Not" embroideries for Salvaged Mutiny.)

Do Not Eat, 2011

Two other considerations.

Number One: I have never done cross stitch, but I've long admired the elegance and cleverness of this kind of work, including the amazing pieces created by beefranck. In person, the gorgeous details of the piece are evident -- the graceful border, the careful lettering. Take some time to explore Emma's tumblr page and flickr stream for more examples of her work and design.

Mr. Bergstom is a hunk. 

And Number Two: This has inspired me to create some more Simpsons-related stitching, like the little Lisa Simpson piece I made for a cool man a while back.

My giddy mind is crackling with possibility! As anyone who is a Facebook friend or who follows me on Twitter can attest to by my constant stream of Simpsons's quotes, I have an endless supply of happiness to create!

Me and my new bestie.

For now, I say thank you to the uber talented Emma for this amazing little artwork. I'm so grateful and humbled by this amazing gift.

Photo by Emma

Emma, Emma, Emma... how I love thee!

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.

Stitch, bake, dream & a Nerd Girl self-portrait

Crazy productive weekend.

Stitching the chain stitch edge

Finished stitching the Phat Quarter Do Not Eat piece for Salvaged Mutiny.  It is washed and drying. Tomorrow I will press and hoop it and send it off to her. FINALLY!

Gnome boot for Maeve

Made a little pair of gnome booties for Brooklyn Maeve's Halloween costume. Will ship these off to my girl Erin tomorrow.

Baked and ready to be devoured

Baked my first ever galette (tomato, basil, sea salt and cheeses) for my fiber arts group, Durham String Thing. They seemed to like it! Thanks to Keefie and Julia Childs for the recipe. A friend will get one this week just for him.

Uncooked galette

Hoofed my way through the Day of the Dead 5K Race in Raleigh with the fabulous Juline. My time? Let's just say, I'm not speedy, I'm enduring. I'd tell you my age and weight before I'll tell you my race time! (Actually, I'm pretty open about both of those, so not good comparisons, but I'm tired.)

I know it's girlie, but I love lush flowers

After the race, Juline went to the Durham Farmers' Market, where I bought my galette ingredients and my flowers for the week. Dahlias in deep pinks.

My only complaint is that I was alone so much. After six months of living by myself, I'm still getting used to this. I spent the days with my iphone on shuffle. Utopia by Goldfrapp brought me special pleasure.

Thinking about new projects... portraits, both my mother's and a new self portrait. Dreamt about an affectionate red dragon that kept burning my skin.

Feeling hopeful and playful.

Nerd Girl self portrait

Holla, peeps!

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.


Far away from our regularly scheduling programing... Coptic bookbinding

Well, maybe not THAT far.

Stitching something different

It involves stitching, after all.

Preparing matt board for awl work

I decided to take a Coptic bookbinding workshop last minute this morning through a group called Jack's Crafts. Just wanted to play with a new, completely unfamiliar creative endeavor. I didn't have many supplies, but they were mostly provided by the workshop group and The Scrap Exchange, where it was held.

I loved piercing paper and matt board with sharp awls. I felt tough! But mostly, I loved stitching the binding together.

Finishing my binding chez moi

Thinking forward and plotting my text-based, stitched sketchbook for The 2012 Sketchbook project for the Arthouse project. I have the moleskin sketchbook that they sent, but since mine with be mostly a textile sketchbook and predominately stitched, I've been researching different ways of binding it all together.  Coptic binding may be the answer.

So happy to use needle and thread!

In the meantime, working on the Phat Quarter piece and exploring other ways of being creative, too. Have been cooking for the first time in many years. Feeding friends and colleagues is surprisingly joyful!

Chopping jalepenos

Even started growing herbs: basil, for cooking, and French lavender for the overwhelming, sensual experience. I wish I could share the dense aroma via this blog!

Sauteing ground turkey for a Thai dish

Next up... attempting to bake my very first Key Lime pie for a beautiful friend who grew up in Florida for whom this is a favorite. (This small New Yorker feels the pressure, in a thrilling way, to master this regional specialty.) Cooking is like stitching. Very methodical and slow, but with so much room for creativity.

Key limes and orchid blossoms

Does anyone else feel that making things for the people we care about and sharing our passion for our senses are among the most pleasurable things in the world?

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.

Late for a very important date! And photo inspiration at First Friday!

Me, stitching, ah...

Got a very late start of my piece for the Phat Quarter food-themed swap. The fabulous Salved Mutiny is at sea right now (literally, she is somewhere on a ship) and she told me to take my time with it, which I really appreciate. With the chaos of my recent move and all, I haven’t done much stitching or sketching.

Do Not Eat sign on my light box

Decided to do a hazard sign for the swap. I haven’t stitched up a hazard sign in a while. I don’t know why I love them so much. The odd simplicity of their designs? The way the image is reduced to the simplest elements to convey the warning?  There is something poetic about them to me.

Biohazard quilted piece,
still need to make it a proper pillow

I’m stitching the swap piece up on white cotton in the traditional red and black colors. But I also like to switch up the colors or ground fabric, like I did with my bio-hazard pillow or the Hans the Riot Cop piece.

Close up of simple back stitch

Lots of excitement about my new apartment. It is very unadorned at the moment. Want to fill it with threads and fabrics and stitches and color. My artwork and the artwork of people I admire.  Want to have gatherings. Want to fill it with passion and life! I know I will.

How beautiful is this orchid color?
Want to fill my home with this color.

For now, finally finished my spirograph dishcloth, so there is some color for my place! Gonna stitch up a lot of spirographs as gifts… let me know if you’d like one!

Had a fabulous time at First Friday in Raleigh this weekend! Local art rocks. Wandered around from gallery to bar with a rockin’ friend who appreciates art and creativity. It is just energizing to explore art with him. Electric stitch-speration abounds!

We saw some cool music photos from the Hopscotch Music Festival, the annual live music event in Raleigh. The exhibition inspired me to possibly pick up my camera again to take photos of something other than myself and what I make. We’ll see.  (Who am I kidding? I have too much on my plate already.)

I was particularly taken by the work of NC photographer Abby Nardo and this piece:

By Abby Nardo

I love the high perspective of the shot. And I love the clustering of the audience around the stage and the scattering of empty chairs. Gives the viewer the experience of being at a live, local show. Moody and gorgeous.  I encourage folks to explore her flickr stream for other lovely live music shots. Yah!

OK, back to stitching, kids! Gotta finish this piece for Salvaged Mutiny. 

I adore this Spoonflower fabric. I want every color!
Sending out my love and affection to all of my friends online and in meat space. Life is great because I have you in it. For real. Keep rocking…

Confusion and color and projects and more confusion...

Rainy and gray day in Durham and I’m feeling a little rainy and gray on the inside. Much less sure of what the future holds or where I’m going in my personal life. Trying not to make any big life decisions from this place of uncertainty.  It seems almost impossible that my heart could hold so much and be so tangled.

The weird thing is that this huge knot is almost completely separate from my creative life. I have so much excitement about what I’m making and my current projects. I’ve never experienced such a disconnect between the personal and the creative parts of me. Aren’t they the same thing? Aren’t they intertwined? I don’t understand!

Right now I’m working on three main projects.

Number 1: A dishcloth decorated with spirographs in happy colors! Let these happy colors wash over me and cheer up my soul!

I had forgotten how much I loved spirograghs as a child until I saw the wrist tattoo of a dinner companion. It wasn’t a spirograph, but the design was early 70s and it reminded me of those magical plastic disks and the fantastic joy I felt as I played with them… it was amazing to see what designs would come out on the page.

Number 2:  Just starting on a Phat Quarter (MrXStitch) sponsored, food-themed swap for the incredibly talented Salvaged Mutiny, a British mixed media artist and costume designer who travels the world on ship. I’m serious!  Sounds like a very cool person and her work is AMAZING. 

After much sweating and searching and sketching, I have created an image, which relates to my passion for hazard signs, believe it or not. Must nip off to the fabric shop to get my background fabric this afternoon. More to come…

Number 3:  And finally, I’m in the very early stages of collecting images and doing preliminary stitching for the Sketchbook Project 2012 as part of the arthouse coop with the Brooklyn Library of Art. I chose the theme “Writing on the Wall.” I know that I will focus on stitching text, both found and intentional. 

By Andy, China
By Erin, NYC
Friends have been very generous about sending me images of signs, graffiti and other text that they’ve come across in the world for me to collect and potentially stitch. If YOU have any images, please email them to me!! The pages and pieces will be quite small and I’m excited about the space for experimentation that this allows.

But despite all of this creative excitement and stitch-speration, my heart is all tumult. I just don’t know what to DO with all of this emotion.

So for now, I’ll just stitch.

Turntable Embroidery Lands in New Zealand!

My turntable embroidery arrived safely to the warm and fabulous Jo in New Zealand.  Yippee!!

The Phat Quarter Music Swap (on flickr, sponsored by the Mr X Stitch blog) was a blast and I strongly encourage others to join in future swaps. This was my first time and I was just blown away by the gorgeous, creative pieces that the participants created.  Check out some of their work here. 

This piece was so much fun to stitch up. Inspired by The Record exhibition at the Nasher Museum (for which I recorded the audio guide), I sketched up several turntable and record designs in my sketch book.  Just doodles. 

However, I was insanely unrealistic about how long the piece would take to stitch. The finished piece is framed in a 9”x12” (23cm x 30 cm) frame. What the hell was I thinking?! For two whole weeks, I was stitching every night after work for a few hours and all day long on the weekend.  I’m not kidding.   

My neck and shoulders became mine fields of knots.  I developed freaky calluses on my finger tips.  I drank lots of booze in an effort to relax my muscles.  I listened to several hours of the “Stitching and Junk” pod cast from Mr X Stitch, which is hysterical and kind of rated R. Good times! 

But it was so worth it to make something for Jo.  She is such a good soul… so kind, so supportive and so creative.  It’s especially nice to make something when you know the recipient will really understand the work that went into it. 

And I really pushed myself, playing with color and stitches.  My favorite stitches have to be the woven spider wheel stitches that I used for the volume button and other buttons.  Jo said that they make her want to push the buttons! I want to make a whole piece of just these woven spider wheel stitches.   

And I really like the effect of the back stitch fill stitch on the record itself.  Although that is what took the longest to stitch. 

The back

OK, enough excitement here from me.  I’m a freaky geek! 

On feeling demented... Phat Quater Swap piece nearly done

WOW, did I underestimate the amount of time and work this piece would take when I was designing it!

Chalk it up to being a newbie embroiderer. I've been stitching for hours and hours every day after work and all day yesterday and I'm nearly done.

No complaints here, though, because I've really pushed myself with this work, both in terms of the design and the stitches.

And I'm happy to be sending this off to Jo in New Zealand when I'm done.  As an embroiderer, I know she will appreciate all of the work I've put into this piece and the love I've snuck in with every stitch.

But I feel horribly guilty that I haven't sent it yet.  The other members of the Phat Quater Music Swap are sharing their photos of the amazing pieces they've received and I feel like a total slacker for being late.  (I was obviously clueless about how much time it would take.)  I'm having a blast, though!

But damn, right now I need another beer and a painkiller!

Deadline? Oops...

Despite my stitching until new and strange calluses form on my fingertips, I'm not going to make my deadline for the Phat Quarter Music Swap.  Boo-hoo!  I'll have to ship my piece off to New Zealand next week.  But my lateness isn't due to a lack of effort! I think I was just too ambitious in terms of the size and the amount of stitching this was going to take.

But I'm really happy with how it is turning out.  It will be hard to give this up because it is my most involved embroidered piece so far. 

I'm so in love with stitching.

New Turntable Embroidery Spins s l o w l y

Spoiler Alert for my swap mate Jo: Don't read any further!!

Making s l o w progress on my embroidery for Phat Quarter Music Swap sponsored by Mr X Stitch.  I chose a turntable because, as I blogged a few weeks ago, Rico and I have rediscovered the fabulousness of vinyl, thanks to The Record exhibition at The Nasher.  Thanks to Rico for taking these shots in the terrible winter light.

This design is based on various sketches I did of turntables.  My deadline to ship this to New Zealand is Jan 31st and I'm having to hustle to get it done. Stitching every night until my fingers are bloody and raw.

OK, that is a slight exaggeration.  But I'm stitching a lot, especially the back stitch fill of the record itself.  Trying to suggest the grooves of the vinyl, but we'll see how this turns out.

I really like the colors!  Black, red and two shades of gray which have fantastic names: Very Dark Beaver Gray and Very Light Beaver Gray.  The ground fabric is Kona Cotton in Cactus and, allowing myself to sink into true embroidery geekery, I'm using a Number 5 embroidery needle.  (I think I've finally found the perfect embroidery needle for me!)

I just had to share my absolute favorite flickr comment that Taff1973 left about the hazard sign on my Do Not Enter embroidery.  "I'm a departmental safety coordinator at my labs and once, a newbie said it meant 'No big hands!!'. I think I giggled for a week...."  I was just as confused about the image when I first saw it, too!  I was like, what the hell is this big hand??  And why isn't it allowed?!

Back to stitching... or I'll never get this sent off on time!

Phat Quarter Swap, Oh My!

Cold and ice, be damned!

THE most fun, exciting new project of this week is taking part in the Phat Quarter flickr group swap. Phat Quarter is the flickr group for the Mr X Stitch blog, which is one of my favorite embroidery blogs.

This is my first swap with this group and I'm geeked!

The theme of the swap is very broad: Music.  We are free to create whatever we want, however we interpret this general theme. Forty stitchers from around the world will be making pieces and sending them to each other.  When I look at the work that has come out of past swaps... wow!  Some really beautiful, whimsical pieces are being created and shared.

I have been hooked up with two LOVELY stitchers and I could not be more excited about this.

by i_hear_noises

i_hear_noises (a.k.a. Denise) is a playful, inventive stitcher in Cologne, Germany.  I am lucky enough to be the recipient of a piece by her.  I love her wicked, embroidered handkerchiefs!  There is something wonderfully subversive about a pretty, flowered hankie inscribed with "bitch."

by i_hear_noises

Denise has extremely diverse musical tastes (Joy Division, electric and house music, Hip Hop and Motown!) which impress the hell out of me!  She is a university student studying English and social sciences.  I imagine she is a wild but super intelligent young woman.  Her tumblr site has fantastic music videos.  I have a feeling that she will be creating something a bit on the funky side, which I love. Lucky me!

I'm creating a piece for the talented stitcher jojobooster (a.k.a. Jo) in Parau, New Zealand, who sounds like someone I'd love to hang out with if only she didn't live 8,500 (13,200 km) away.

Jo blogs about crafting at The Unexpected Hug.  She has participated in Phat Quarter swaps before, where she made this gorgeous piece for an anatomy-themed swap.

by jojobooster

Jo is a Brit who has relocated to New Zealand.  I love this pillow she made for her mother-in-law that has Maori designs.

by jojobooster

And then she makes plush.... could I just swallow Jo up?! A plush maker who creates charming pieces like this ninja hugging creature?

by jojobooster

My only hope is that I can make something worthy of her wonderful spirit!

So, yeah, I'm kind of excited about this swap. Can you tell?  I have some sketches started and I have a pretty good idea about what I'm going to make, but I can't share it here, which is hard for me.

Taking this post in a different direction (sort of), Juline took me to a super duper fun, black & white themed art party this Sunday in a beautiful home/gallery in Chapel Hill.  The exhibition was from local collectors' black and white photography collections.  I got to see a Harry Calahan original print, which was very cool for me.  He was one of the first photographers whose work really captured my imagination.

Here is a photo of me (right) and Juline at the party.  The spinning light installation in the background is giving me ideas for my embroidered piece for Jo!  Things that go around and around... hmmm....