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Archive for January, 2006

The Surikov Diaries: I

It occurs to me that it might be worthwhile to keep a sort of journal about the Boyarina Morozova, which I just started on Sunday. Nothing too grand, just my impressions of the project while I stitch it. Things like when I finish page 1, page 2, all the way down to page 75 — oh, BTW, I realized after my last post that the reason it has 75 pages is that it has a lot of white space, and clear gridding every single page, which the program I have at home doesn’t have — if it did, the cross stitch I’m doing for my son might be 30 pages, not just 15.

With that in mind, I began, as stated, on Sunday, January 22. Never mind the fact that I’ve had this pattern since December 2004. It takes courage to start something this big. As of today, I have 200 stitches on it, which sounds impressive till you realize that the thing is almost 200,000 stitches, and takes up the better part of a 3′ x 5′ piece of linen. So far, it’s very green. Green is not a color I normally associate with winter, but as I look at what I’ve done, it occurs to me that despite such undeniably summery names as Ivy Green and Thyme Green, it’s all actually very cold-looking — and Arctic ice often appears greenish. I’m in the upper-left-hand corner, by the way, and what I’ve been stitching is very dark sky. I’m hoping that as I add more greys, the sky will look less greenish and more like a lowering storm sky that threatens snow. As if there weren’t already enough in this painting.

Something this size is best worked on a large, large frame — or sideways. I’ve opted for the latter. I have it rolled up on a 36″ stretcher bar, and plan to progress down one complete side before moving back to the top to stitch the next 8 sections (8 pages of pattern compose a side). So the pattern will go from top to bottom, but not show very much of the subject matter at first — once the first 8 pages are done, you should be able to see most of the young lady on the far left who’s gasping in sympathetic horror, but not much else. I do plan to update this blog with photos, but since I don’t have a digital camera (and wouldn’t know how to link it up to my computer if I did), I plan just to take a series of pictures with a disposable camera, then post the best to each blog. So there will be a whole lot of updates at once, I’m afraid — but it’s the best way I can think of to handle this. My first pictures are of the first 100 stitches in the frame, and shows something of my work set-up (if it all comes out — I haven’t had too much luck with photographing my needlework. The light’s always either too much or too little).

More to come…. /insane cackling, as organ music swells, then fades out….

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I knew that eventually, I’d get tagged with this. Well, it’s one way of getting people to post when nothing else is going on in life. 😉

Foursquare Meme
I’ve been tagged by Philippa. So here goes….

4 Movies You Could Watch Over and Over
1. You’ve Got Mail
2. A Man for All Seasons
3. Becket
4. Men in Black (I and II)

4 Places You Have Lived
1. New York, New York
2. Moerfelden, Hesse, Germany
3. Waltham, Massachusetts
4. Rochester, New Hampshire

4 TV Shows You Love To Watch
1. Law & Order
2. JAG
3. Old movies
4. NCIS

4 Places You Have Been On Vacation
1. Milton, New Hampshire
2. Schillerslage, Germany
3. Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany
4. Northwestern Connecticut

4 Websites You Visit Daily (other than blogs)
1. ROCOR website
2. WMUR (local news)
3. Blogline.com
4. Yahoo.com

4 Of Your Favorite Foods
1. pascha (Russian Easter Cheese)
2. kulich (Russian Easter cake)
3. homemade chicken soup
4. anything German

4 Places You Would Rather Be Right Now
1. Church
2. Moerfelden, Germany
3. Lansdale, Pennsylvania, with our second kid
4. Home, because it’s close to our first kid, and because it’s home

4 Bloggers You are Tagging
1. Christa
2. Alana Juliana
3. Christopher
4. Emily

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Art for the Masses


Owing to Philippa’s comment about not knowing about cross-stitch programs, I thought I’d expand on that a little.

There are a number of computer programs written for cross-stitchers. Mine is called Stitch Crafts Gold. There’s another called PC Stitch. You scan whatever you want into your computer, and the program has a “grab” utility that “grabs” your photo and converts it into cross stitch. Where you have to be careful is that some of the colors are so similar that you have two stitches in one color and one in a second, maybe three in a third — over the whole piece. Those you would want to combine into a single color, whatever came closest to your original photo (or your idea of how the colors should blend).

You can crop unwanted details. You can decide on the symbols you want to use. If the computer-generated symbols are too confusing for you, you can “swap” symbols with an unused symbol. Stitch Crafts Gold allows up to 120 colors/symbols in any one picture, which frankly is way more than most of us would want to deal with — the picture in my last post has 87 colors, and that’s more than enough. 😉

The picture above is a copy of my latest insanity. About a year ago, I thought it would be nice to do a cross-stitch of Something Russian to give to the Russian Dept. at the University, and I contacted a woman who specialized in converting Russian art to ask about this picture (Boyarina Morozova, by Surikov). Next thing I knew, she had converted the entire picture, and the cost was only $20 — how could I say no? It uses, I think, 93 colors — but consists of *73* pages of graph (my Train picture “only” has 15). I’m figuring on maybe the rest of my life to finish this one….

But the Russian Dept. has to share space with a lot of Classics snobs, and I figure, this image ought to give those Classics people something to think about. Or at least subdue them.

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Back in September, after I finished a gift embroidery for my sister, I spotted this in a cross-stitch catalogue. You can imagine who came to mind, and I thought, “What a nifty Christmas present this would make!” and ordered it. When it came, I was massively disappointed: The thing is an “embellished cross stitch,” which means it was screen-printed on 14-count Aida cloth, and you only stitch certain parts of it, leaving a stitchery with a whole lot of holes to be filled in.

I checked with my cross-stitch group, who agreed with me: If I went with the original design, it would bother me every time I looked at it. So I scanned the photo into my computer and ran it through a program I have that creates cross stitch out of any picture you care to reproduce, and since October I’ve been working on this picture called, “Maryland Mountain Express.”

Needless to say, it wasn’t done in time for Christmas. It may not even be done in time for Chris’s birthday, in June. But I am much happier with the results.

Slowing me down has been, not just the trip to Pennsylvania (this was way too big to tote along on a train!), but another project I foolishly got involved in: The World Trade Center Quilt. Some woman in Kentucky conceived the idea of piecing together a quilt made up of black Aida-cloth rectangles, each cross-stitched with 18 names of people who died at the World Trade Center on 9/11. Sounds like a great idea, right? One problem: Working with that black cloth. I really have to pace myself so I don’t get eye strain. It will be some time before I ever work with black cloth again, I can tell you!

And there is one last project I promised to start this year. The woman who sold me the pattern has since had second thoughts about it, since she isn’t sure how it will work up as a cross stitch, and I told her I would “model-stitch” it for her, which means I’m committed to getting something done with it. I just tried uploading it, and it’s not coming up, so you’ll have to look it up: Google images, then enter “Boyarina Morozova.”

Some people would just say I should be committed, period. And I’m beginning to agree.

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How about this handsome young fellow? See below….

I’d say something about Sleeping Beauty awakening, but since I will turn 60 this year, I think we can forget the “Beauty” part. More like Rip van Winkle.

In the crush of finishing up yet another semester of Russian (still asking myself why I’m doing this), I slipped several anniversaries of people’s passing, including my own mother’s — probably just as well, considering how conflicted I still feel about her. In fact, today is an anniversary, but not of someone I knew well — a high-school friend of my cousin’s whom I had a crush on, till he undertook to let me know in no uncertain terms that he was “gay.” Today marks the 12th anniversary of his passing, which means he was far too young to die — I don’t believe he reached his 50th birthday. Memory eternal, Kevin.

With Russian finally out of my hair for another month, I had all the usual Christmas prep to get into, except that this year, it included a trip to Pennsylvania — yep, we visited our son! And what a lovely time we had! I must admit, it rather reminded me of one of those MasterCard ads: “Train tickets for two on the Acela Express: $xxx. Six nights at Comfort Inn: $xxx. Cost of rented car: $xxx. Look on son’s face when we met at Union Station: priceless.” We got lots of good pix of him running the locomotive, too. The one up top is just one. I must say, he works darned hard for his $10/hour.

On Sunday, we got to attend church at his new parish — after attending one parish in the Philly area for 18 months, with only one or two people ever talking to him, and neither of them was the priest, he finally decided to pack it in there, and began attending a Greek parish in Elkins Park, which is only about another five miles for him to drive. What a lovely church! I wanted to see if I could get a postcard with pictures, but didn’t have a chance to Explore. But he has already made a couple of friends there — in fact, one lady said she and her husband had planned to invite him to dinner for Christmas Day — and at least they have a Young Adult League, if he can ever find the time to get into it. My only concern is that it looks like there’s a lot of money in that parish, and obviously, Chris isn’t wealthy, or likely to be. However, in fairness, I must say that I’ve never found Greeks to be the type to turn up their noses at hard work. Anyway, it was a beautiful place, the choir loft was to die for — up front, off to the side, graduated stands for the different parts, an organ behind all, and everyone facing towards the altar and the choir director — and the singing was heavenly, although we didn’t hear the choir — they had sung at the Vesperal Liturgy the night before. Instead, there were three cantors, all with exquisite voices. I can’t help hoping that Chris finds a real parish home here.

Needless to say, this trip was my only Christmas present, and my only birthday present. But it was all I wanted, anyway, and what better present could a mom get than a week without having to cook, clean, or wash clothes?

We have been back for almost a week, settling into the groove of getting back into those tasks, and me coping with a back that twisted into a pretzel the morning after we got home — dratted bus ride from Boston to NH — and dh fighting with a cold he picked up in a bar on our last night (the restaurant was packed, so we sat at the bar so the Working Stiffs could have a beer, at least. That was a mistake — ciggie smoke everywhere, and that’s how dh came down with his cold).

And I thought, well, it’s about time I posted something. At least I had something to write about, for a change.

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