By GRETCHEN RICHARDS
Even though I am a skilled artisan, it still surprises me when all of the pieces of a project finally fall into place and the finished piece begins to reveal itself. I will forever be in awe of that moment, when scribbles begin to form art, when pieces of fabric begin to look like clothing, and when thousands of tiny little x's in various colors combine to reveal the image hidden within.
Photo by Gretchen Richards
The sloop is finally revealing itself from the background of the piece, much to my relief. While the finished piece will have sections that closely resemble the multicolored sunset background, the sloop will be recognizable overall.
After eight weeks of forcing myself to continue working on what has felt like a pattern which would ultimately end up in the trash can, that pivotal moment finally came for the Bermuda sloop this week. Sometime during the early hours of Wednesday morning, I glanced down at the cross stitch and realized that I could see the ship. Not a bit of a sail, not something which I needed to strain to see, but I could legitimately make out the sails and the masts and the shape of a boat riding low in the sunset-infused ocean.
I smiled. For the first time in weeks, I realized that my project was not going to be a piece of junk, and that it would ultimately come out looking like the image it was supposed to be.
With a great amount of luck, two of the three missing colors found their way to me this week, for which I am extremely thankful. I used the shades to fill in the large gaps in the sunset on the right of the piece, and found that the hues of the setting sun brought the entire project to life when the newly-acquired colors were worked into the design.
I moved on then, eager to fill in the gaps in the lower right-hand corner to fill out the darkening section of the sea. From there, I began to work toward the middle of the sloop, adding colors that began to form the outer edges of the sails, distinguishing them from the bright background behind them.
Working in these narrow areas where details make all the difference in the outcome of a design means that there is a lot of starting and stopping of cross stitching. In many of these areas, I ended up securing a new color of thread to the other stitches so that I could place a single x and then tie the string off again.
As a general rule, I do not like to make a gap of any more than five stitches with a single color of thread. I find that doing so creates these long strings on the back of the cross stitch which have a habit of getting caught and ripping. Over time, these broken strings lead to stitches that become loose, ruining the cross stitch. So I try to avoid gaps like this in my work.
Unfortunately, when dealing with a single stitch for a color, this means that I have to tie the color off and switch to another shade almost as quickly as I put a color into the piece.
Hours passed. It felt like I was spending more time cutting new colors of thread and securing threads to the back of the piece than I was spending cross stitching. I began to go cross eyed, and lose myself in the maze of the pattern's dozens of little symbols. Little airplanes next to ten-pointed stars began to jump around the page, it seemed, and before I knew what was happening, I was attempting to repeat parts of the stitching that belonged an inch below where I had put them.
I ended up picking out quite a few stitches because of this, but at least I managed to do so without drawing blood this week. Amid the repetitive task of changing threads, there came I time where I forgot that I had placed my thin nickle-plated needle loosely on the front of the piece instead of tucking it into the cloth. I calmly picked up the piece and flipped it over to the back, and saw, to my horror, the glint of my needle as it flew across the room, landing in the dark area under my desk.
My cat Mari and my dog Cinnamon both know not to chase things that randomly land on my floor. Mari gave me a tail flip at the sound of the needle bouncing off the wall of my room, and Cinnamon raised her head to look at me before going back to sleep in her clothes basket.
I crossed to my desk slowly, cautious of where I was putting my bare feet on the brown carpet, until I go close to my desk. I reached over, flipping on my desk lamp, and leaned it down so its light would shine in the dark area beneath where my feet usually go. Using my desk lamp like a prison warden's search light, I carefully patrolled the area of my carpet for several minutes.
Finally, the glint of nickle-plated needle shone out from my carpet, and I was able to retrieve the needle from the floor. I returned to my work, and continued stitching in the center of the piece.
Join me next week, as I finish up the two original pages and move on to the partial pages three and four.
Gretchen Richards is a reporter at the Parkersburg News and Sentinel. She is a fifth-generation artisan, skilled in numerous art forms. She enjoys sewing her own clothing and custom purses, making quilts, and weaving. She is skilled in knitting, crochet, embroidery, counted-cross stitch, and working with cloth of all types. Gretchen also paints with acrylic, practices calligraphy, and is skilled in metal-working and book binding.