Monday, February 17, 2014

Wipocalyse Feb 2014: An Asian slant and the SBCC announcement!

No, the title was not entirely tongue-in-cheek deliberate. Yes, I'm fully aware of the word play :)

I'm too lazy to split my posts into two separate topics, so I'm going to do this alphabetically.

First on the agenda:
The Stitching Bandits Chatelaine Challenge

This is a SAL cooked up by my dear sisters Joysze and the Sexy Fairy, who, after years of cajoling me into stitching my first Chatelaine piece (and me trying to make up my mind for the same period of time), in order to bolster both my ambition and will to stitch this, finish this and frame this!

So after many times and countless emails and telephone conversations, which featured Joysze at her persuasive best, me waffling over this piece or that, and figuring out the currency conversions and saving up for it, we finally decided that if I were to stitch only one Chatelaine piece in my life ("It won't be your only one," she said with conviction), this would be it.  Since the decision to do this apparently took about the same amount of time and patience on their part to wait for Halley's Comet, they decided to get everyone along on the ride. I do have the best stitching sisters in the world, and I'm so thankful for it!!! So... if you're working on a Chatelaine or plan to start one soon, please join in, because we're throwing in a gift certificate, which will be given away to a lucky winner of a raffle, at the end of the challenge.

Next, the Wipocalypse post

Wisdom, by Joan Elliott
Since Chinese New Year lasts for two weeks, and I wanted to do some stitching on something Asian, what more appropriate than Joan Elliott's Wisdom?

I typically dislike stitching brown, especially the dull dusty colours, but this has been very interesting. While Joan Elliott has a great knack for colours like blues, teals, greens and purples),  and has produced more geishas in recent years, I keep finding myself going back to her earlier ones like this -- probably because the face seems more artistic than realistic, and her layering of the girl's fabric and understanding of Japanese cotton motifs is excellent. Btw, since I love working in sets, I'm thinking about stitching Beauty (gold and pink kimono) and Grace(purple kimono)  after this, and hanging them together in a row. Any thoughts on this would be greatly appreciated!

Finally, this next part is not a stitching subject but an embroidery subject. One of my brothers is (finally!!!) getting married to his sweetheart, and I've been rather excited about it. From the planning to the finish, it's going to be busy, and along with it comes the ever-fretful question: what to wear?  Well, the choices are between a cocktail dress (not yet purchased), a Chinese qipao (also not yet purchased) or should I give a nod to my Straits Chinese heritage, lose some serious weight around the middle and squeeze my big balloons into this nyonya kebaya?

OK, before we proceed further, here are some references made simple:
The garment in question can be made to end anywhere from the hip to the knee, but it is onlyalways a top! obviously, a corset or a camisole is worn underneath to prevent, erm... nipplage.  The most luxurious ones are made of Swiss voile (this one that I took a pic of cost a whopping RM2,800, or USD900!!)

The flowers are largely traditional motifs (peonies, chrysanthemums, lilies and some butterflies are traditional, roses (which come up off and on) are not but are also popular - these are then carefully embroidered into the fabric, and then the lacy part is essentially elaborate cutwork. So... a genuine piece is practically a work of art that goes on your body. This one has traditional colours (we like blues and teals and oranges), with peonies and some butterflies in it.

The blouse has no buttons, but is fastened together with jewelled pins. The pins can be the same size, and be connected with a chain like this:

Or they can come in a set of 2-3 pins, typically called "mother and child" -- the "mother" is the biggest pin, obviously, and the child/children are represented by the small ones. Like this!

It is complemented at the bottom with a batik sarong, either made of cotton or silk (I prefer the latter for formal occasions). The sarong is either a) a very large rectangle of cloth that the wearer has to fold and pleat and tuck securely into her waist (my preferred method) without any pins or accoutrements, or b)  the rectangle is sewn at the sides together to form a large tube (still loose), which is cinched by a belt - which is traditionally made of silver.

Put together, you get an ensemble like this:  (I pinched the images off the Internet)... oo look, pretty aunties in beautiful nyonya kebayas.

Addendum:  on Straits Chinese:
these are descendants of Chinese people who came to Malaya as traders, before the large wave of immigrants left their Chinese motherland out of poverty, desperation and starvation to work here, largely as manual labourers or tin miners.
As the ancestors of the Straits Chinese can be considered the "first wave" of immigrants, and they were mainly dudes, they married into the local population and assimilated local culture into Chinese tradition. The result of this is a unique combination of attire (see above), speech (it's the closest thing to pidgin Chinese), cuisine (complicated to cook, artfully balanced and entirely addictive) that is still practised today, even though the ethnic subset of Straits Chinese is on a decline. The closest comparison to Straits Chinese that I can give would be the Creoles of America -- never belonging 100% to either or any of their original "ethnic ingredients", and creating a culture entirely of their own.

Speaking of cuisine.... I'm hungry. But to get into that sort of garment, it's going to be a salad, and anything else. Grrrr!!!!  Until next time, readers!

Thursday, February 06, 2014

A Lunar New Year might require a new start

It has been slightly over ten days since my last post - and I haven't allowed my blogging to fall by the wayside again, hehehe. Picking up this blog has reminded me how shitty/rusty my writing has gotten, how many eyeballs I used to have but have left this blog, and has given new impetus to the act of stitching and showing progress, not only to friends old and new around the world, but also to myself.

Stitching has been rather slow since finishing Paradigm Lost, although I managed to finish another page of Mette (see previous post), but much of that was due to a difficult January (did I mention that my job stresses me out? - time to change that) and one that was filled with getting lots of errands done and getting ready for the Chinese New Year. You know, shopping for the family, getting the cat ready for his long weekend alone, making sure the house is all clean, etc.

Since the Chinese traditionally follow a lunar calendar, and the moon decided that Jan 31 is the first day of the year (and seeing as I phased Jan 1's new start), I grabbed an easy project to take out of town with me.

Here is my unofficial new year's new start:  Midsummer Night's Designs Medieval Mermaid. On a piece of 32ct linen scrap, using one of the DMC colour variations for that wavy sort of feeling  LOL

Festive season stitching (but not theme-appropriate)

I spent CNY at my late grandparents', and stayed a little longer to commemorate the 49th day after my beloved aunt's passing. According to Buddhists, after 49 days, the soul moves onto the next phase... what it is, whether rebirth or sitting around waiting for afterworld bureaucracy to get in order, is anyone's best - but however it is, I hope she is where she wants to be and she is happy. I've been wanting to stitch a commemorative piece in her honour, because scarcely a day goes by that I don't think of her - and sadly, that I didn't spend as much time as I would've liked with her.

I don't know what yet - but maybe Zen Garden would be a great choice.  Come to think of it, as she was a devout Buddhist - I can't think of a better one, what with the tranquil gardens and four fish and the four Buddhas looking over north, south, east and west. (ok, so... stitching plans for 2015 has just begun...)

In other news, one of my brothers-from-another-mother (I have a few) decided to take up Chinese ink painting. This means it's majorly black, on rather thin sheets of Chinese rice-paper, which has an odd texture. I decided to keep him company, but apparently... I'm pretty crap about sticking to a monochrome in painting... (warning: it's not very good)

I think a little Asian-themed stitching is up next, seeing that it's another eight days until Chinese New Year is over. So... that Wisdom geisha will get a little attention. Till the next time, my friends.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Big Mama, a Chatelaine challenge and other miscellaneous things

Well, I took two days off from stitching - which didn't help with my stress level but freed up my hands - after finishing Paradigm Lost. For some odd reason, while I have plenty of books and spent the two days thereafter reading, it felt like my hands were not occupied enough and sure got restless to a point that I had to pick up another WIP.

YUP, not a start this time, but a WIP!

OK ok... maybe a tiny little start which I dare not post pictures yet.... sssshhh...

Getting back to the WIP, I pulled out a three-year-old piece, Mette Putfarcken 1811/1824. Here's a link to Sabine Taterra's site, if you want to purchase a copy or any other of her gorgeous reproductions: European Reproduction Samplers  Mette is a 19th century Vierlanden sampler, originally stitched in black and what looks like a bit of chocolatey red. It also spans over 40 pages.  Some people accuse me of being a masochist, but really, I don't know what they're talking about :)

Anyway, could you imagine stitching on all that black?  I couldnt... so, ahem, I swapped some colours: to purple (main colour), pink (offset colour) and a spot of blue. This piece is mainly cross stitch, and it is huge -- some time, I'll post a piece in its entirety and you can see how big the piece of fabric can get.

This is Mette, on Pages 16-16 - there's a ton of great detail stitching here, which is great if you like intricate designs like I do. Off and on you'll get to do some long stitches or sort of erm, satin stitches, but they would be very easy to do.

OK, I'm a colour whore. So sue me :)  For a better reference: These are colours picked off Vikki Clayton (ie Hand-dyed Fibers)'s Ultra Violet and Rose Quartz range -- I also think that any combination out of those two would work. The blue is from one of her mystery floss skeins, so I can't tell you what it is exactly.

As Mette tends to be a piece I stitch in-between (ie it is a piece that helps me transit to the next 'Target WIP', she gets pulled out off and on and worked on a little bit. I never have an end-deadline goal for her, because .... well.... 40-something pages of purple, pink and blue again and again and again... need I say more?  However, because of the frequency of stitching this, she is never boring and always a joy.

Aside from that, here's some food pictures.  Steamed clams in ginger, wolfberries and Chinese wine at a Thai restaurant I went to recently:  (This is mainly for my sisters' benefit, because they're not living in Asia but they... ok I'll stop before one of them clobbers me):

And the on my own last week, not such a great pic but what the hey: sourdough bread, with black forest ham, rocket leaves, tomato, Harvarti cheese, spicy mayonnaise:

Last, but certainly not least, my stitching sisters and I - ie Joysze and well, the Sexy Fairy and I, who are not related by blood but feel like we've known each other forever - have managed to cook up a SAL for Chatelaine pieces. I think it's going to be a real blast and worth dipping your toes into -- so if you are an experienced stitcher or are just keen on dipping your toes into your first Martina Rosenberg masterpiece, come and join us here!

After several discussions, there was a minor change to the rules (which makes things much easier):

Do join in -- and whisper in my ear what project you'll be putting up onto your scroll rods, Qsnaps, etc.  Mine is Chinese Garden Mandala -- which will be winging its way courtesy of Joyce's wonderful mom and dad. 

Until the next post (and possibly a new WIP pic)... have a great week ahead! 

Sunday, January 19, 2014

IHSW Jan 2014 - Finding the borders of Paradigm Lost

First off, please share with me the joy of finishing my first stitching project -- and a major one -- for 2014.  And also my maiden post for IHSW!!!!  Oh, the IHSW boss - ie Joysze - was so proud :)   (also, since she's pretty much non-blood family, she was almost obligated to be teeheehee)

Oh yes, and IHSW does not stand for I Hate Stupid Wankers (although I DO).... it stands for International Hermit and Stitch Weekend, which happens for the third weekend every month. You need to sign up for each month to participate, which is great because it doesnt necessitate your attendance for 12 months, but when you want to and can commit to it.

For more information, kindly hie thee attention to the right hand frame of this blog and look for Random Ramblings, and click forth and explore.

 Here is Big Blue... no no, not the IBM computer, but  one of Julia Line's most iconic samplers, Paradigm Lost.  Shit, the pic is kind of too small.  grrr.

I started this mother of a sampler on Jan 1, 2013, hoping to finish it last year.  If I wasn't distracted with finishing a certain huge-ass peacock piece ( the piece was huge, not the ass of the peacock, I mean), I could've met my goal.  But then, some of you readers know me, and know me well.

I get bored. Quite easily. Staying the course for this one, at times, was not easy because so many other projects call for my attention and it helps my motivation levels that I get constantly tempted by some of my cohorts to plan or start some new projects.  Towards the end, as with a lot of other projects, stitching the last part is difficult and it stretches and stretches - you know, kind of like how some marathon runners hit the wall" (not that me or my plump backside would know anything about it first-hand).

This section (pic below) dragged for-fucking-ever!!!  Finally, when all the cross stitches were nicely laid in, I took THREE yukky hours putting in the single-stranded backstitch (while watching Law and Order on DVR)  when it should ideally take just one. Well, having a big pint of Hoegaarden in my gullet could've also slowed down the speed, but ahemmm, who's telling? :)

So, scrolling back up to the first picture (yup yup, scroll up, cos it's there) you might have noticed my overly-ambitious "2013", right?   I was cocky enough to think I could wrap this sucker up by 31 Dec, and I'll tell you, I had to eat a bit of crow when i realised that the due date had past, so, what's a girl to do but to tell people that it was the START date, and not the finish one.

That said, it's a jolly good thing I haven't tagged Mette Putfarcken 1811 (or was it 1824?) as 2010.... hehehehe.

Here's the nitty-gritty -
Fabric; 28ct annabelle (Zweigart no longer makes this... Zweigart, sometimes, you guys are idiots! this is a lovely evenweave)
Threads: DMC 820 and DMC 3842  (I am effing sick to death of DMC820 now).
Stitching companion: My ginger and white moggy, Horatio, who occasionally thought the WIP, when spread out for pictures, was a freaking RUG.  (Horatio was not present at the time of the photo-taking, as he was conveniently inconvenienced at the WC when I whipped out the camera).
Mishaps - minor frogging, but other than that, all ok.  Frogs don't often visit Chinese stitchers, cos... you know, we eat every damn thing anyway, and kung pao frog legs taste awesome.
Stitched in: my apartment in PJ, my friend Marcella's condominium in Bangsar over some weekends, some parts of it while visiting my grandparents' house in Penang and my brother's pad in Singapore.

Dang, this WIP's been in some places.
But it is a WIP no more.

Next one to conquer:  Either Joan Elliott's Wisdom geisha or My Big Toe's The Name of God.  Any votes?
I welcome all feedback in my comments, unless you're trying to sell something.  (in the event of the "selling something, I cordially welcome commenters to eff off) The last comment I got (which was, of course, never published), some buttbrain called Anon (yea yea) tried to sell me some pills that promised to enlarge my nonexistent manhood.

Oh well, live and let live.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

WIPocalypse Jan 2015 - Big Blue is almost there

I do apologise for my tendency to rename projects that I'm working on - but sometimes, when you've been diligently slaving away on something, doesn't it almost feel like you're preparing to give birth? (not that I would know anything about that first hand).

It does feel rather nice to be writing a little more actively again -- I've got a job that does more fixing than creating and no matter what they say about doing what pays the bills, there is something about the latter that feeds the soul in the matter that feeding the tummy doesn't quite satisfy.

But enough rambling!  For WIPocalypse in January, I am posting progress pictures of Long Dog Samplers' Paradigm Lost. Stitch for stitch, I think Julia Line is possibly one of the most talented cross stitch designers around, for her marvellous eye and sense of colour and balance. Better yet, in all of her pieces where she stitched the model, she eschewed linen (thereby snarking in the face of some fabric snobs - which I love. the snarking, not the snobbery, I mean) and went full force on aida!

I've had photos of its progress in my phone but for some reason, only managed to upload a few of them.
Paradigm Lost under a flash.

Please excuse the furry fabric weight.... he can't keep away from the WIP at all.  Luckily, he doesn't use it for a rug! 

This was last month (under no flash) 

Essentially the same picture, except without a flash

These pictures below were taken about a week ago.  As I move closer to a finish, the leg of the stitching marathon feels lengthier and the run toward the finish line seems to be harder. It always gets this way towards the end, and I cannot help but think, perhaps this is the point where I need to say goodbye to it, and while I look forward to it, I'm also bidding farewell to a marvellous time and a great series of hours put into creating it -- so it is a little happy, but a little sad as well.

A close-up of the dragonfly (now finished).

A finally, as of 3 nights ago - you can see how close it is, how big it is and errr, my toes.  The toes will end up becoming a fixture in pictures, for which I don't really apologise. Even if you're a foot fetishist.  Erk.

My friend Joyce who owns the Random Ramblings blog has asked me to join the IHSW.  International Hot Stitchers Week?  I Hate Sour Whiskey? I don't really know what is, but what Joyce says, I follow :)  (It's a complicated relationship, that one).

I'll post more once I figure out what I'm suppose to do about it. 

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Another year, another WIPocalypse, another series of plans

One of the most interesting things that I've learnt about my bad habit of really being able to start a lot of new projects and being extremely poor about finishing them is that - no matter how good intentions are and what it takes, plans have a great way of going awry. Sometimes, though, in the best sort of way.

Looking back, my attempt (in the midst of a very busy and stressful 2013), my last blog post was in 2013! And after battling even more stress, life changes and possible depression a few years before, is it any wonder that this blog, which is about eight years old, was in need of a thorough overhaul.

 So, an overhaul it is. I tossed out the old layout and customised a new one - although suspect that more changes will come according to whims.

Apparently, changing to the new layout also managed to lose all of my old links, so for all my blogging friends or other (similar) blogs who would like to be linked, please drop me a comment!

I made a pledge to myself to be more creative and crafty from now on, even if this means losing sleep. For creativity is like a beast, it really misbehaves when you don't feed it. Feeding the craft addiction is also something like that.

 I made a pledge to write more often (which means this blog provides a reason NOT to dodge this activity). 

Since other blogs that were started have fallen on the wayside, I also decided to amalgamate all my activities that I would blog about - stitching, tatting (not really), art (sometimes), sometimes writing, cooking, eating and general ranting are all going to be placed... you guessed it... here.

Aside from that, Kevin Tober, that marvellous enabler/comrade/stitching partner in crime has nudged me towards WIPocalypse 2014. Since 2013 was not the greatest of stitching years (although I finished that DMC peacock .... pictures in a later post), 2014 should be a new year and a great one for a new leaf. Right? RIGHT?

So.... WIPocalypse. On Kevin's direction, I went to Meari's blog: (you can also join in...the more, the merrier, right?)  the WIPocalyse blog and Joined.

Yeah! Am committed now! Also looked at the list of participants and was encouraged to find his name there, along with Gothtigger (FB buddy and fellow cat lover) as well as my sister-from-another-mother, Joyce, who owns the amazing Random Ramblings blog. (Speaking of sisters, my other one Novia - if you're reading this, Nov - I seem to have lost your blog in the great reformatting process).

So getting back to WIPocalypse: Here are my projects to work on this year:
1) Paradigm Lost (will finish this even if it kills me)
2) the Name of God (My Big Toe)
3) one of the Vermillion Stitchery International Bears (Even if it kills me too!)
4) Flamenco (Papillon Creations)
5) Stained Glass Peacock (Kappie Originals)
6) Mette Putfarcken 1824 or 1811... forget which (Sabine Taterra at European Reproduction Samplers)
7) Wisdom Geisha (Joan Elliott)

The list will change as the year progresses ;) Also, some new starts have been planned: Mirabilia's Sleeping Beauty, a Chatelaine, a Sara Guermani and ... hmmm, maybe a Joan Elliott again.

 So here's to a new start again. Some stitching, some drawings and ... yeah, CraftyPretender will be featuring food porn in time too. Because, you know, even the creative types get hungry. Especially when they're stitching.

Friday, March 01, 2013

OK, so I'm roped into the...

WiPocalypse!!!!! Kevin, over at Cabbages and Kings sent me an email and it's hard not to say no to that darling fellow -- especially since he's a prince among enablers and a stitchy PIC (partner in crime). I know the WiPocalypse has been around for a while, and I think for a while, my galpal Joyce joined it, too. I've no idea what the rest of 2013 is going to garner but it's high time some major X'es are put in!!! Here is my WIP list... here's my list 1) Mette Putfarcken 2)That peacock (DMC) 3) Kappie Originals peacock 4) Flamenco (Papillon Creations) 5) PAradigm Lost 6) Bagatelle 7) Metal (the erstwhile Stab and Stash) 8)Plight of Fancy (Longdog) 9) Four seasons of Cirques (all Cirques in the four seasons colours) on a single piece of fabric 10) Houses of Hawk Run hollow (insert guilty giggle) 11) Grand Marquoir 2009 (JL Grandsire) 12) The Name of God 13) my grandparets' dual sampler -- again, my bad habit of putting a series of matching samplers on one piece of fabric -- it's Four Oaks' Rhapsody in Blue and Love Song technically, I have 17 WIPS but I incorporated some into two pieces of fabric for 2 projects... I know, I know, dig that hole deeper, right? The active WIP at the moment is Paradigm Lost (A pic to follow soonish)...