Every story of two is always a story of three: two pairs of hands grab the same thing at the same time and tug in opposite directions.
Cross-stitch was one of my first hobbies. I’ve never gotten into crochet and knitting (I could never get my stitches tight enough), and sewing came much later. I enjoyed picking out new skeins of thread (back when one could buy four for a dollar at the local Pamida). They were little brightly colored threads of potential. Winding them on little cardboard bobbins was incredibly soothing. The limited number of stitches and the structure of the Aida cloth were less intimidating to me than freehand embroidery (I could never get my stitches even enough to look right).
At some point I stopped stitching. I got busy with the sewing, and then the publishing, and then the stress of just getting through the day. Sitting down and working on something just for myself seemed indulgent and irresponsible. The boxes of thread, the Aida cloth and cross-stitch books got pushed to the back of shelves to make room for bolts of cloth and serger thread and depression.
In November, as we reorganized the garage into a workshop, I found all of my cross-stitch supplies. They were dusty and wrinkled, but no worse for wear. I sat down one evening with some linen and waste canvas and my Celtic Cross Stitch book by Gail Lawther. I had an idea to create something I could hang over the front door, a pouch I could fill with herbs, stones, medallions, whatever represented to me safety and love and protection. I have an affinity for Hestia, who is often represented by a circle, and Stephan has a strong connection to his Celtic roots. I picked a design that was circular and got to work.
The actual stitching took a week or so, working in the evening. The whole time I had to remind myself that it was okay to take this time for myself. And as the pattern emerged, as I looked from design to fabric and back again, as my hands worked, I stitched pieces of myself back together. Those parts of me that had been torn away because I felt I didn’t have the right to self-care were reattached with careful rows of Xs. Breathe, I told myself. This is okay. You get to do something solely for the joy of it.
And it worked. It was soothing to concentrate on the rhythm of the needle going in and out of the fabric. I had to give all my attention to keeping the thread from tangling, to the number of stitches, to the tautness of the fabric. There was no room for other concerns. I made sure to tell Stephan several times how much I was enjoying this one simple act, to reinforce the good feelings.
After the pouch, I embellished my bag with a design of Hecate’s Wheel. I started having issues with leaving the house last year. Not so much agoraphobia, as anxiety about being around people. I thought that carrying a reminder of Hecate, a goddess that I associate with strength and protection, would help with my feelings. I am taking medication and am in therapy, both have helped with this particular issue (among others), and I think that the cross-stitch has aided in my healing.
Me being me, though, I started playing around with the idea of creating my own cross-stitch patterns. I’m also working on another book with Stephan, and I am looking to incorporate the cross-stitch into that. To those ends, I pulled out some graph paper and started with a topic that seemed easy enough: the Elder Futhark. The runes are all lines, with definite proportions. I wanted to design something that could be repurposed for various projects, and thought of all the alphabet samplers that one finds in various cross-stitch project books. I researched various viking design elements for the borders. The actual drafting took several weeks of graph work and then stitching out the designs to see how they looked. In the end I drafted two samplers, both on the small side so that they can be completed in a single sitting.
The first design you can see above, the runes are four stitches high by one or two stitches wide (depending on the rune). The finished design is approximately 2 1/4″ tall by 3 1/4″ wide on 14 count Aida cloth. It has been worked with two threads: the runes in red and the border in red and black.
The second design (below) is even smaller, the runes two stitches high and one or two stitches wide (again depending on the rune). The finished design is approximately 1 1/8″ tall by 2 1/8″ wide on 14 count Aida cloth. It has also been worked with two threads in the black and red colors.
Both designs are done in back-stitch (making them less cross-stitch patterns, but that’s the term I’m going with). The stitches include half and quarter stitches, so you have to work between the weave at some points.
I used the program KG-Chart LE to make the charts. I will definitely be buying the program as it very easy to use and does exactly what I need it to do. I highly recommend checking it out if you want to make your own patterns. You can view the designs by clicking on the links below:
This post originally appeared on January 23, 2015.
[The library in Unseen University] had one or two advantages on account of its magical nature. No other library anywhere, for example, has a whole gallery of unwritten books—books that would have been written if the author hadn’t been eaten by an alligator around chapter 1, and so on. Atlases of imaginary places. Dictionaries of illusory words. Spotters’ guides to invisible things. Wild thesauri in the Lost Reading Room. A library so big that it distorts reality and has opened gateways to all other libraries, everywhere and everywhen …
It is astonishingly rare for a paradigm shift to be triggered from outwith the scientific community, and it’s not hard to see why: in almost all cases, no matter how much amateur theorists may batter against the wall of scientific indifference—like angry wasps against a window—the reason their theory is not being taken seriously is that it has fundamental flaws that are immediately obvious to anyone with even just a modicum of extra knowledge that the amateur does not possess. It’s no real wonder that amateur theorists often feel themselves persecuted by the “lords of ivory-towered academia”, or whatever—a regrettable situation to which there seems no easy solution: as noted above, scientists have limited amounts of time they can spend dissecting each and every new hypothesis that to them is quite patently nonsense.
Whether you spurned a fairy lover, insulted a witch disguised as a beggar or had the bad luck to be born to the wrong parents, there’s nothing worse finding yourself the target of a transformation curse. One minute you’re enjoying life in your perfectly formed human body and the next—bam!—you’re a hideous beast, a slimy frog, a white cat, or some other creature. Don’t let your new form get you down. You can break out of that enchantment using the time-proven system outlined below.
Your first step is to set the bait. Residual magic from the enchantment can be shaped into an appropriate setting. This is no time for humility or small ideas. Dream big: grand estates, cavernous jewel-encrusted grottos, underwater palaces, darkened woods shrouded in mist. Choose your location carefully—not somewhere out in the wilderness but definitely off the beaten path. Old trade routes, lands once occupied by legendary kingdoms, and abandoned ruins all are suitable. Don’t forget the attendants. Invisible servants are popular these days, although anthropomorphic animals are traditional.
The second step is to cultivate patience. You can’t expect your prince or princess to show up the day after you’ve been enchanted. It takes time for word to get out, or for a hapless questor to stumble across your estate. While it is frustrating not knowing how long you will be locked into your cursed form, put the time to good use. Learn how to play chess with the servants. Practice dancing, fencing and dining without making a mess. Improve yourself; it will help with step number three.
The big day is here! Your rescuer has arrived either under his own volition or as a deal to save her kingdom from your murderous appetite. Now you must make your guest fall in love with you. This is the easy part. Such rescuers are raised from birth to expect to find true love through magic. All the stories they have heard end with, “And they lived happily ever after.” Every royal brat dandled on a nurse’s knee is taught that underneath all ugliness and uncouthness a just and noble heart lurks, waiting to be released by True Love’s Kiss. And their true love will be found through adventure and adversity. This will, however, prove to be a small obstacle in breaking the curse.
By now your beloved has seen past your external horridness to the sensitive, refined person trapped inside. It is time for step four: the second hardest part. Persuade your prince to cut off your head. Encourage your princess to throw you against the wall. The details vary according to the spell, but it can only ever be lifted through violence. This is tricky. Convincing your rescuer to do violence without revealing why puts his or her faith and love to the test. It also requires a certain character defect on the part of your beloved, so it is a test of your love as well. Do you really want to spend the rest of your life with someone who is willing to hurt you?
Step five: congratulations! The spell has been lifted. You are now free to live Happily Ever After with your prince or princess. Do not look for your servants or estate or library. These all disappear with the breaking of the spell. Now it’s off to the faraway kingdom to live in relative wealth and comfort. You can entertain your children and grandchildren with stories of magic and true love so that in time they will be prepared to go out and find their own. And if you have to settle for a life less magical, well it will be worth it, won’t it?
“So You’ve Been Enchanted, A Guide to Breaking the Curse in Five Easy Steps” copyright 2016, Raechel Henderson
This post originally appeared January 12, 2016.
Halloween is just around the corner! Take this weekend to whip up some spooky looking jars to bring a little bit of “horror” into your habitat.
This that is beautiful, it shows my way;
This that is beautiful, it shows my way;
This that is beautiful, it shows my way;
Before me, it is beautiful, it shows my way;
Behind me it is beautiful, it shows my way;
This that is beautiful, it shows my way.
—Navajo creation chant
Get your spooky on this month with this Friday craft. All you need are empty cardboard rolls, glue, electric tea lights and black paint!
The pressures on all sides to bond make those who, for whatever reason, find themselves alone uneasy and even guilt-ridden in their situation. Even worse they reduce the possibility of success for the relationships which they constantly promote. If, as we are told, our lives can be fulfilled only by our intimate attachments to others, then those attachments are from the beginning under a weight of responsibility that cripples their growth. Even more importantly, this current insistence on relationships not only spoils our chances of relating—it gets in the way of our discovering the value, perhaps the necessity, of solitude.
It’s Friday Craft Day! Help yourself to some Spooky cross stitch patterns to make over the weekend. I’ve got a mix of free and for sale patterns covering the Halloween aesthetic. So get your stitch on.