a few books and some (more!) cross stitch

There’s a new cross stitch in the shopOn An Autumn Lake.  Thank you so much for your lovely words and support for my little shop and its cross stitches – you have truly made my week :-)  I am so very grateful.

I have truly laboured over this cross stitch – it took me hours and hours to get the border and cornerpieces just right.  As for those trees – oy!  But so very satisfying.  My favourite part – I love the house, yet another one I’d move into in a flash!  And the wee people – I love cross stitching people … I’ve been making up some brooches with their faces and will hopefully have them ready for show later this week.  Along with some linen hand towels that have bands of cross stitch using the borders.  So many good things calling for my time.

And then there’s the reading.  I have to confess … since the bookstore closed, I haven’t visited another (bookstore that is).  I feel a bit over bookstores.  But I do have the family ipad and I’ve been buying all my reading matter as ebooks.  Eeeeek!  Part of me feels unbelievably guilty for doing this, but another part feels quite rebellious.  The book industry – not the retailers, but the publishers – has screwed the Australian consumer royally and frankly, I’m happy for them to take it in the neck for a while.  But we won’t dwell on that – let’s just talk books.

Since The Help and The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (both amazing and heartbreaking) I’ve plowed my way through Cutting for Stone, Mudbound and This is Where I Leave You.  Three utterly different books.

Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese – unbelievably good.  Oh my! This man is a poet – a magical weaver of words.  It reminded me a wee we bit of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin in that its setting and history – Ethiopa – was almost completely unknown to me (in CCM it was first half of the 20th century Greece).  My only exposure to Ethiopa has been what I’ve seen on the news – violence and starvation – and a tiny glimpse of its beautiful mountains and animals in a recent BBC documentary on the Great Rift Valley.  Well!  There is obviously so much more to this ancient and beautiful country than that – the Emperor Hailie Salassie, the Christian church, the relationship between Ethiopa and the Italians and Ethiopa and Eritrea, the expatriate community – especially the Indian community.  The medical aspect of it is fascinating – I suppose I have a bit of a bias towards this because of my current study, but I lapped up every page describing surgeries and clinics and patients – awesome detail.  And the characters are incredible – I feel so very attached to them and feel the need to look back at certain chapters every day, so as to see them again.  They are so complex, many of them so generous and loving, the twins as teenagers – so very real, sometimes positively grating, other times breathtaking.  It was a HUGE story, every page captivating and beautifully written … You must simply must, must, must read it. What’s it about?  A family.  Love.  Loyalty.  Civil War.  Death.  But above all, love.

Mudbound by Hillary Jordan – totally different.  Almost more like a play than a novel – I could imagine it being read on the radio.  Set immediately post world war 2 in the Mississipi farming Delta.  Told through the voices of several of the characters – a white farmer, his wife, a black sharecropper farmer, his wife, their son – a tank commander who’s recently returned from fighting in Europe, the brother of the white farmer – a bomber pilot who’s also recently returned from Europe … I think that’s it.  Again, very good writing – Jordan does a beautiful job at showing rather than telling.  But heartbreaking injustice.  Really, really infuriating.  I couldn’t say it was one of those novels that have altered how I look at the world (Cutting for Stone has!) because there was little in the content that I haven’t read before.  But the very personal way the story is told, from all those different viewpoints – each one so very, very enmeshed in what is happening, but each in a different way – is what makes it a brilliant book and very deserving of its Bellwether Prize (for contribution to social justice).

After Cutting for Stone and (especially) Mudbound I needed something a little lighter – enter Jonathon Tropper’s This is Where I Leave You.  Oh my goodness.  Very, very entertaining.  Laugh out loud moments.  But also full of poignancy and wistfulness, of lives of promise that weren’t lived, and relationships that were allowed to wither and falter (and quite a bit of sex – it’s definitely not for the prudish).  It’s not at all preachy, and the main character has plenty of flaws – they all do! – but they are so real and quirky that you can’t help but warm to them (there’s even a moment where I thought, oh he’s not that bad about a man who had behaved ATROCIOUSLY!!!! – I smacked myself and got over that!) and think “Oh come on!  Try again! You can do it!”  An awesome story of family and love and love lost.  I enjoyed it so much I’m now reading an earlier Tropper novel, How to Talk to a Widower.

*sigh*  Now there are dishes to be done, family to go and join, school shirts to wash … so I shall love you and leave you for now.

the current bliss

there are cotton cloths, scribbled with colourful cross stitch on almost every surface of our home.

no matter how much care I think I’m taking, sweetpea keeps finding skeins of embroidery floss and bringing them to me … after she’s finished her version of embroidery.  This ususally involves one end of the skein being wrapped around the legs of the table in the living room, and the rest of the skein dragged through the house to me at my desk.

I am so utterly besotted with my cross stitch at the moment.  As I move through our days, cooking, washing, cleaning, sitting on the train, walking between lectures, studying, I catch my mind playing with colour combinations – should I have used 453 for the shading of that eye or would 842 have looked better?  Should the side borders of the autumn lake picture have acorns or fish?

And then, during the blissful hours I set aside for working on my patterns, I am so very focussed, creating shapes on the computer, trying out colour after colour after colour of orange for the blaze of autumn foliage, or the right shade of rosy pink for the cheek.

As for the houses … this is perhaps my favourite part of the pattern .. I just imagine all the different houses I would love to live in.  They always have an attic – with bedrooms of course – and they are always full of colour.  Mmmm … I love building houses.  I can’t wait until the day Julian and I get to build our own home with real wood and real paint on real land.  It would be lovely if it was indeed by a lake, or overlooking the sea.  As long as my family are there and there’s grass and trees and sunlight outside, I’ll be happy.  Well, and lots of colour.

Then I rush back to the cloth, grab my needle and try the combination I’ve just settled on.  Sometimes, it’s a surprise, but most times, these dmc colours have become such friends over the last 22 years that I once I lay my stitches on my cloth, the image peeks out at me so sweetly that I have to jump up and go find Abby or Julian to show them.

Once, after sewing up countless pillowcases for Christmas presents, I said I wanted to be a pillowcase maker when I grew up.  I’ve changed my mind.

I want to make cross stitched pictures.


they’re done! they’re done!

Today, the fourth day of August 2011, I bring you …

This is my new shop and the name all my patterns and goodies will be sold under.  Abby and Julian are responsible for my logo – I’m so thrilled with it!

And here are the first two patterns … (if you click on the pattern cover, it will take you to its etsy page)

This cross stitch pattern combines my love of stitching with my favourite childhood books and my dear little dachshund Toph. As a girl, there was nothing I enjoyed more than curling up with “A Secret Garden” by Frances Hodgson Burnett, “Anne of Green Gables” by L. M. Montgomery and “Alice in Wonderland” by Lewis Carroll.

In “Hidden in the Garden” I have popped “Anne” into one of her favourite dresses – one with puffed sleeves! – and set her down, with Toph and the magical key, in front of the almost hidden door to a beautiful secret garden. The robin sits atop the wall, inviting them in with his song. And the words of Dickon, the Yorkshire lad and Mary Lennox’s dear friend, remind us of how good it is to get our hands into the earth and help things grow.

There’s elements of Alice with the perspective – my Anne will have to duck to fit through that door! But this element also weaves in my love of the naive art of colonial America – a style where the artist would incorporate all the elements of life that were important to the commissioner of the painting, no matter how peculiarly they fit.

The camellia tree sings of the gardens where I live. At this time of year, August, it looks as if the Queen of Hearts herself is in charge of our gardens and has sent round her minions to squish on as many reddy-pink blossoms as they can to our huge, old camellia shrubs.

The borders draw on my long infatuation with traditional embroidered samplers.

and …

“The Whale and her Girl” draws together some of my daughter’s favourite picture books – the fields of lupins from “Miss Rumphius” by Barbara Cooney, the girl and her telescope from “Loud Emily” by Alexis O’Neill and the lighthouse perched on the edge of the cliff from “Birdie’s Lighthouse” by Deborah Hopkins.

The glorious seascape, sparkling sun and beautiful whale remind us of one of our favourite places in the world – Byron Bay. We have been holidaying there since I was a little girl. The beach is lined with huge old Norfolk pines, the lighthouse – visible from miles around both day and night – glows on the most easterly point of Australia, and twice a year, the whales sail past on their long migration to and from the cold depths of the Antarctic. It is a truly magic spot.

The lines from Emily Dickinson’s poem – whilst really describing her garden! – send me straight to the warm, balmy sands of the Pass at Byron – I can feel that soft sea washed air, my eyes are filled with sunlight, and I can feel the rise and fall of the waves as I float over them.

My perfect day.

They are available as PDFs – instant satisfaction – and include a colour picture of the chart, the chart (spread over four pages so it is easy to read), the thread key, and some cross stitch tips for those that would like them.

Okay … back to the drawing board – the little shepherd is almost here.

p.s. sorry I haven’t been posting – I felt that I couldn’t until I had finished the patterns – what a dope!  I know!