Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Confessions of an Anal Cross-Stitcher

First, I'm posting about two projects I'm working on. After that, you are welcome to read on about my journey with the cross-stitching craft, if you so desire. I didn't want to turn off any readers who may not be interested in the craft, but wanted to see the projects. (I do apologize for the format, I'm still getting used to this setup).

The first of two projects is of a cuckoo wasp, a beautiful insect commonly found in places like Australia (there are many species). I created a pattern from this photograph by Peter Chew at http://www.brisbaneinsects.com/ and had actually nearly completed the project two years ago. Somehow, it was lost, a month before I was going to enter it into a contest. Weeks and weeks of work gone! After two years of looking, I started over, however, because it was the first project I'd done using a program that made realistic patterns (more on that later). To the right is my current progress, and apologies for the photo quality, I haven't gotten a good day yet for natural lighting, and the flash on my camera tends to wash out colors.

The second is of the ship Serenity from the show Firefly. It's ultimately for my husband, and while it doesn't look like much now, it's a massive project and when finished will be incredible. We've both agreed that were I offered enough money for it, I'd sell! I'm currently working on the 'nose' of the ship (lower right of the provided image), and the first solar panel. Drooling fan, yes.

The wasp is on 28 count linen, and Serenity is on 28 count Evenweave (Jobelin I think?). I am still looking for who to credit the image of Serenity I've used (it's been shared and reshared quite a bit).

That leads me to the 'Confessions' part of this post.

I learned cross-stitch when I was 5 or 6, from little kits my grandmother gave me. Very simple, blocky things, and I quickly grew tired of teddy bears and puppies. The 'standard' size of cross-stitch fabric is 14 count (count = x's per inch), and I always thought projects done on them were blocky and cartoonish. Many people prefer this, it's just not for me.

Regardless, I LOVED cross-stitching. I found it relaxing, and when I did find a good pattern of realistic-looking birds or animals or flowers, I enjoyed the projects. The more colors, the better. But my search was never truly satisfied; I wanted really REAL looking things to cross-stitch. Like photo-realistic, and tons of color; the more the better!.

After high school, I discovered really small count cross-stitch fabrics, and that helped for a while. I would take projects like Gold Collection kits, and do them on 22 or 28 count cloth. They came out smaller of course, but they looked more vivid to me. But still, I wasn't truly satisfied.

Then, a few years ago, I was digging around on Ebay for patterns. I'd discovered that some people were selling some really neat patterns of fairies and animals that were large, realistic, and with lots of color. While looking through one seller's goods, I saw that they were listing a program called PC Stitch. With it, you could make your own cross-stitch patterns. I knew right then, that I'd found what I was looking for.

With PC Stitch (I use the Pro version), you can take any image and import it to the program, tweak it in several ways, and create your own pattern. While I'd love to sell patterns, that was never my intention with the program, and I doubt I'll use it for that purpose in the near future. The main reason being, while I do paint, draw and take the odd snapshot, there are millions of other artists and photographers out there better than me. Purchasing the rights to their images would not be cost effective, at least I haven't found this to be true, yet.

In short, I'm in heaven. Since I was young, I have hungered for this very thing. With the cuckoo wasp, for example, you can stand 10 feet away from it and it looks like a photorealistic painting. From 20 feet, there's no way to tell it's stitched. I'm extremely anal about that; while I love cross-stitching, the last thing I want is for it to LOOK cross-stitched. That's why I'm very picky about color richness, small count fabrics (28-32 count), and just the right size. All of my patterns take weeks or months to complete (I go to school or work, so I only get an hour or two a day), and are truly thrilling to work on.

I do intend to sell some of what I complete, and as long as paying for the rights to images I use is doable, I'll happily oblige. I always want to give credit where credit is due, and would never try to profit from someone else's work.

Anyway, would love to know what people think! Please comment. :)

Monday, March 14, 2011


Even though I'm still at the community college level, I've progressed through classes to the point that the subjects are getting more challenging. My 200 level biology series was certainly challenging, but not like this.

I'm nearly 20 years out of high school, and I've taken some college in between then and now. Education has always been something I enjoyed for the most part, and I've never found I had to study for days to prepare for a test, and I typically and A student.

Now, as I approach the last year before applying to OSU's biology programs, I'm beginning to see what's in store. Not that I didn't anticipate it, but with a chemisty final and a math (pre-calc/functions) final in the next 2 days, I've been studying since the middle of last week. Still not done!

Slowly I'm omitting parts of my other life to make room for my education. I don't craft as much, I don't play online games as much (especially those that require a lot of thought and effort), in fact I only focus on one of those. I don't watch nearly as many shows (thank goodness I can stockpile them for later). More and more I leave early to study on campus either alone or with groups, and my comfy chair at home is surrounded by school work rather than craft clutter.

Am I complaining? Not really. When the epiphany struck me in early 2009 that I should be studying to be the biologist/ornithologist etc. I 'd always wanted, I knew it would be my life. I had always wanted it to be, but my selfish side wouldn't let it in. I compare it to how I decide what music I like: if I can listen to it repeatedly and not get tired of it, I know it's going on my list of good music. I've loved learning about anything biology related since I was 4 years old, when I was learning to draw and read, and I've never, ever gotten tired of it.

And if I'm thinking two tough finals is a lot of studying, I should remind myself that next term is more chemistry, trigonometry, and botany. Whew!