otherstuff

The ever lovely Bridgeen of Cherry and Cinnamon invited me to participate in the blog hop that’s been going around. See her post here. So here’s a look at what I am working on and a bit about how I work.

What am I working on?

Hedebo
Honestly, I’m working on figuring out what I want to work on next. I’ve been thinking about doing some simple Hedebo embroidery (pictured above) in combination with a moth wing. I’m still contemplating how exactly it will work.

Burlap side 2 progress
While I ponder away on that, I’ve picked up the burlap sack again and started on a snake and some apples. Plus, I’m stitching up some baby presents for a few friends. Keeping my hands busy while my brain works on another problem works well for me.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I like to think that my work has a certain something to it that makes it special. I’m always drawn to little things in a book that make it unique — typography, illustrations, water damage, embossed pages. I love a sense of story in a piece. Sometimes that comes from a photo that I’m working with, and sometimes it comes from the narrative that a book tells itself. I am certainly not the only person who uses embroidery and paper together, but I think my work has its own definite look about it.

Why do I create what I do?

I love the satisfaction of creating something out of an about to be discarded item. And I love the sound that thread makes going through paper. Embroidery also lets me slow things down. Having a job and two kids means sometimes things get a bit hectic.

How does my creating process work?

In large part, I start with a page and then figure out what to put on it. I keep lists of topics that interest me, and of possible images that might go together well, but I try to just let the embroidery take form as I go along.

in the weeds

I’ve been trying to keep things looser lately. The first burlap side came together casually, and my last few paper pieces have been more improvisational. I am starting to really enjoy working without a very specific plan. Over-thinking can be such a barrier for me.

For next week…

Keeley keeps a blog called Stitch and Color where she shares her embroidery and illustration creations (I’m particularly charmed by her watercolors). You can also find her on Flickr and Instagram.

And so many other awesome folks have already written a post for this “hop”, I encourage you to check them all out. The aforementioned Bridgeen, Sol, Rebecca, Julie, Carina…And in the non-embroidery world: Chiaki, Roybn, Katie, Kim, and Rachael (and so many others…).

met

For one of my Christmas presents, my lovely husband bought me and a friend train tickets to New York and tickets to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, so I could see the Interwoven Globe exhibit.

It was so good.

I was glad that I could get really really close to the textiles and examine them in detail. (At the Smithsonian here in DC recently, I got a little too close to a few needlepoints and set of an alarm. Oops.)

Some of my very favorites (embroidery) were: A Mexican Wedding Coverlet, a crewel Dress for A Young Boy, and an Embroidered Sampler (note that it has Harem scenes!). Other favorites (non-embroidery) were: this Lace Patterned Silk, and this Bizarre Silk.

We also saw the Julia Margaret Cameron photos (which is also closing soon). They were really beautiful as well.

The museum is so huge that it was hard figuring out where we were and what direction to go next — especially when we both got hungry. We took a walk through some of the impressionist paintings before leaving, and also peeked at some Roman sculptures and a few Egyptian things before we decided that food was becoming really necessary.

Afterwards, we strolled through Central Park and braved the crowds down Fifth Avenue past the shops and to Rockefeller Center to see the tree. Then after ducking into a coffee shop for a bit, rested our feet, regrouped, and braved more crowds to get dinner at Shake Shack and then back on the train home.

But not before I snapped a photo of the Empire State building all lit up green and red.

empire

 

Currently, I am reading Emily Matchar’s Homeward Bound: Why Women Are Embracing the New Domesticity. And I have some thoughts. First of all, I’m not done the book, but I’ve read a good chunk of it. I’ll spare you all my thoughts on the parenting bits (because hoo boy, do I have them!) and stick with the chapters on blogging and Etsy.

It’s going to sound like I am not liking this book, but I really am finding a lot of good in it. I’ve dog-eared a lot of pages.

The start of the book was hard for me to get through. There’s a good bit of over-generalizing, and broad strokes about feminism. The meat of the book doesn’t really get going until the second or third chapter.

Focusing in on the lifestyle blogs: home decor, parenting, baking/cooking from scratch… the point Matchar ends up making is that (of course!) bloggers edit themselves, and they do try and cultivate an image, and design and craft blogs in particular (and also parenting blogs and definitely the overlap) tend, in large part, to gloss over the failures, the sweat and in the end, everyone is trying to make a few dollars.

I don’t personally think editing is bad. I myself have split off my “creative” side to here and try and leave the day-to-day living and kid stuff over in my other space (though I haven’t written a lick in ages). I read the blogging chapters nodding my head at sentences like, “So when we see what looks like an organized, stylish picture of domestic bliss portrayed on their blogs, there’s a natural tendency to hold ourselves up against that; if our lives don’t measure up, well, we feel like crap.”

It all leads up to this expectation that everyone can be successful at blogging and at crafting and making a living off of an Etsy store. Matchar points out that Etsy perpetuates this idea all the while creating a sort of bubble where we’re all scrambling on top of each other and actually making it harder for us all to succeed (by driving down prices and flooding the market with product). The idea of artisan-made is one that a lot of us can agree is a good one but sifting through it can be overwhelming.

I really appreciated how Matchar takes us from the early punk roots of reclaiming craft, all the way up until now, where it seems like everyone is selling hair bows and crocheted baby beanies on Etsy. As with the blogging chapter, the book makes the clear argument that becoming successful at selling anything on Etsy (in particular) is difficult and rare.

I am not sure that I buy into all the Baby Boomer versus Gen Y theory that is heavily leaned upon, however. I personally don’t consider myself 100% Gen X or Gen Y. I didn’t have the “Free to be you and me” experience, nor was I a latch key kid whose mother went to work in an office. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I didn’t see myself in the descriptions of why a person would be embracing the so-called New Domesticity. These reasons, Matchar claims, are what is driving women back to crafts, to cooking from scratch, to handmade businesses (and to Attachment Parenting). The reasons include that Gen Y is addicted to being reaffirmed; that their Boomer parents have created a generation that needs to be told how great they are all the time and who are too good for boring, entry-level, employment.

The argument I do believe (which is also made in the book, but I wish was emphasized a bit more), is that the recession combined with a bit of distrust in the system and not wanting to give big corporations and rich folks more money has driven folks to want to buy locally, support small businesses and artisans. This idea has become more mainstream, but perhaps the marketplace hasn’t caught up with it yet. The casual artisan is lumped in with the serious one. The person selling in a high cost of living state (who really needs the money let’s say) is competing against a person who just wants to make a little extra cash in a low cost of living state (and so that second person wins the business). Matchar points out, that in a bad economy, self-employment is terribly risky. Microenterprise really isn’t the solution that it appears to be on the surface (because the lifestyle blogger above has made it look so effortless) for a woman with children who can’t afford daycare and keeping standard 9-5 job, or a woman who finds herself unemployed. It’s hard work, and it’s very hard to actually make money.

Of course, I’ve always been a bit of a socialist.

If you’ve read the book, I’d love to hear your thoughts. I know I have more to say, and that perhaps what I have expressed hasn’t been done so in the clearest of manners.

A little bit ago, I was introduced to the Staple Dress by April Rhodes via Nicole at Follow the White Bunny. I’ve been looking to sew something for myself to get over the irrational fear I had built up inside myself of the sewing machine. I’ve had my mother’s old Montgomery Ward machine from the 70s for years now. I had it in college, I moved it to our first house when I got married, and then moved it again when we bought this house. And yet, I still hadn’t used it for anything save hemming some curtains in college. The one unfortunate thing that did happen was the manual got put in a give away pile at some point and the Internet wasn’t giving up the manual for free. Luckily I did find a few things that were helpful.

So, I went and impulsively bought the pattern right after Nicole assured me that it really was an easy sew. And then it sat for a while. At some point last week, I committed myself to getting the thing done. I bought fabric, thread and got the machine out to practice on some scraps. It was kind of a disaster.

But with some work — re-threading, a new needle, new bobbins, and patience, I managed to work out the situation within the same day. I made a few little practice things with just straight lines. And then on Monday, I set to work on my dress. The laying out of the pattern was the hardest part for me. I’m a bit of a perfectionist when lining up things, so not getting all the lines perfect when putting the many pages of the pattern together was frustrating. Once I made peace with the fact that it was ok for it not to be just so, things went smoother.

I’ve spent a lot of time in my life watching my mother sew, and I just sort of remembered a few things as I went along: what different markings meant, to be slow and deliberate and most importantly, use paper scissors for cutting the pattern, not the fabric scissors. I was pleasantly surprised that the sewing of the dress went smoothly — even the shirring using the elastic thread worked out. I started on Monday and finished it up on Tuesday. There are some slightly crooked lines in places, and the hem came untucked in one spot on the inside of the dress, but all in all, it really came out well.

dressonhanger

I’m a little bit proud.

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