Halloween designs

If you are looking for some cool autumn cross stitch designs, check out the Fall issue and the Halloween issue of the magazine Just Cross stitch. Frony Ritter Designs has a piece in each issue, both shown below. The sampler was inspired by the spiders who appear in my garden in the late summer doing acrobatics on their home made high wires. And the Spell check was inspired by my musings about what happens when witches make “spelling” errors. To get your copy of these magazines, go to your nearest store that sells cool cross stitch stuff or look on JustCrossStitch.com.

This week I spent time in the cross stitch deprivation chamber, otherwise known as the kitchen, making 100 cupcakes for the Grand Poobah of the Royal Order of the Water Buffalo (Flintstones reference) otherwise known as my dear husband who is engaged in one of his many endeavors to “leave the world better than I found it.” Why the coke bottle? These cupcakes are Jack and Coke.

Repurposing for cross stitch

Yesterday I bought some new candles and as I was removing the burlap packaging it began to strangely take on the look of cross stitch material. (You know how everything looks like food to the starving man? This was something like that.) So I frayed the edges, used six DMC strands and stitched the first word that came to me. I stitched a witch accessory on the side, wrapped the burlap around the candle, wrapped orange baker’s twine around the burlap and put a bat button on the bow. The entire process took about forty five minutes (minus five for a snack break).

Improve Wine with Cross Stitch

As I was staring at the cup of crimson wonder, I asked myself what would improve it. The answer came immediately–add some cross stitch. That would perfect the wine experience. So I decided to make wine tags that are cross stitched.

Here they are, in kits and ready to stitch. I have assembled them, and the sad truth is that my boss (myself) will not even pay me sweatshop wages. I will work for snacks though. Below are the big, beautiful spools of DMC, and myself punching holes in the floss holders.

I also made the charms into ornaments by adding beads and wire hangers. Finally, friends Wendy and Kevin, owners of Terra Bella, one my very favorite wineries, located on the Russian river in Sonoma county, pair the wine charm charts and their wine to see how they get along. I can happily report they are a great combination.

Batty About You

Time to begin your fall stitching. Batty About You chart is now available. As in all but two of my charts, instructions include both stitching and using a combination of stitching and beading.

I couldn’t squeeze in the history of bats and Halloween on the chart so I can tell you now. The ancient Celtic people used to make huge bonfires to ward off evil spirits at what we now call Halloween, and they called Samhain. It was the end of their year and a time the boundary between the material and spiritual world was thinnest and spirits and other wispy, scary things would come around. But bats also came around, to eat the bugs that were attracted to the light of the fire. That is the reason I made the Celtic knot a fiery color, to attract the bats.

The saying I used was a childhood phrase of endearment I remember hearing a lot, although I had to shorten it, because “you’re driving me batty” was too long. Feel free to change the words, or even leave them off.

How to Create a Cross Stitch Design

Here is a quick summary of how I design cross stitch patterns. I suspect not everyone does it this way. But here is one way, which may help you to create your own patterns.

1. I bring grid paper wherever I go that I may have to sit longer than ten minutes (except work). Making things in squares seems irresistible, for other also. I just doodle and see what happens. I usually also bring colored pencils. The piece in the picture was drawn during a two and a half day lecture. The lecture was great, but I listen better if my hand is drawing.

2. I then color my drawing. I did not like those colors and I was daydreaming of the rich yellows and oranges of autumn so I changed it. Because of the color change I took out the loops and put in leaves. But I realized the spaces were bat shaped so I figured bats were meant to be there. I added the frame and words later.

3. I stitch my first design from my hand drawn design. My first one had a blue background because I wanted it to look like the night sky and because blue and orange are complimentary colors. But it was too dark for the bats to show up well so I changed the background to green.

4. I keep my strength up with the frequent ingestion of snacks. The brain likes to utilize glucose when it thinks. And snacks make a person happy. Generally speaking, kids are the happiest people on earth and they love snacks. Coincidence?

5. After stitching one piece, I put the design on a computer program. The two I like best are PC Stitch and Patternmaker but I have used several more. I print it out and stitch the piece again.

6. I submit my chart, finished pieces and a pile of opinions to my graphic artist, otherwise known as son. He and my husband photograph them. Then my graphic artist and I get in many respectful, polite power struggles wherein we try various background colors and he vetoes my ideas until we come out with a chart. I give it to my mother-in-law to stitch and may stitch a few more times on other fabric backgrounds. We correct mistakes we find and hope we found them all. (There were some typos in a few of the early ones so my quest is to make a perfect chart.)

7. My printer sees me coming and runs for the Advil bottle. He has patiently taught me a lot about printing, paper and color over the last year. As you can see, he prints a proof of the chart that I stare at for a few days, hoping any mistakes will announce themselves, and then I call him and say, “print”.

I made the first drawing 11 months ago, and this chart will be back from the printers next week. Now you know this chart’s journey from conception to birth.

Bead Entropy

Here is an example of the second law of thermodynamics in the variety related to entropy as the dispersion of matter (not energy) as it relates to beads.

Strangely, Salvador Dali snuck in on the last devolution, which means that when you don’t know what makes logical sense next, stick a fish or wilted clock in and call it surrealism. No disrespect intended to Dali. My dreams imitate his art every night. Well, so much for my “dalliance” with understanding how art and entropy work.

Cross stitch advertising?

As a newcomer to making cross stitch fun into a business, I decided I should probably advertise. So I gathered up my business team (offspring) and asked them to brainstorm. Thirty seconds later the following paper came sailing through the air toward me.

After being simultaneously horrified and amused this is what eventually emerged.

Now to get the word out, not just about my designs, but also about the joy of cross stitching in general, some friends have joined in the effort. A few of them are converts to stitching. Our beloved band, Ruffage, is shown here promoting the arts with great enthusiasm.

Of course I have minions. How else am I going to establish my evil cross stitch empire? Does my minion cross stitch? Yes.

Evilly.

Inspiration from a Painted Library

My first encounter with Leigh McCloskey and Michael Bennett resulted in a creative avalanche. Leigh is an artist, author, actor and visual philosopher. Michael is a clinical psychologist who is on faculty at Pacifica Graduate Institute, co-founder of Aeolian Center, and in private practice. Together they have discovered and now share ways art, healing and psychological development are connected. Since this has been a lifelong interest for me as well, I have been energized and grateful for their approach and education in this area. I can admit it now that I designed the two wine charts while at one of their presentations. This weekend I also suffered an attack of inspiration brought on by these two amazing people.

The first time I was in Leigh’s library in his Malibu home I was speechless (for a little while) and in awe (still am). After the September 11, 2001 attack Leigh responded by getting on his knees and painting his floor. He kept going and painted his walls, books, ceiling, couch and chairs. What he did was paint a profound symbolic story of the human experience. His willingness to be obedient to the creative inspiration, as well as his bold colors have been an inspiration to me, both in painting and in cross stitch.

Here is Leigh and Michael. And yes I am getting ready to jump on his couch cushions. I couldn’t help myself as it seemed like a moral imperative and it was fun!

My oil painting teacher from many years ago was a wise man who taught me many things including that when I don’t like a painting I made to throw rocks at it (which I did a few times but mostly I put it in time out and hope it reforms itself). My painting Yoda always told me, “Ugly colors make pretty paintings.” Seeing Leigh’s colors gave me the courage to say in my mind, “Yoda I defy you (just for a few minutes) while I pick out all these beautiful colors for my cross stitches.”

I took these cross stitches, still in progress to be released for summer, back to their birthplace for a visit, to the “painted cave” as it is now called. They also visited the Malibu beach to have their photo taken and found themselves on the edge of an early morning filming set. Maybe the top half of this cross stitch will become a movie star.

On another note, how are the Olympics and cross stitch related? They aren’t. But here is a recent conversation about them.

Frony (not paying attention but wanting to be part of the conversation anyway): “What do you call that?”
Husband (patiently stating the obvious for the zillionth to time to compensate for someone else’s inattention): “Ski jumping.”
Annoying historian: I call that tempting fate.“
Husband: “It does look dangerous.”
Frony: “Everything in the Olympics is dangerous. Cross stitching is a much safer bet.”
Annoying historian: “Not the way Frony does it. You are safer walking through the Korean demilitarized zone than walking through Frony’s work area with all the needles sticking up in the carpet.”

Happy colorful stitching and watch for needles!

Learn Your Cross Stitch Personality

As an enthusiastic student of human nature, I am always interested in the newest personality test. You answer questions and are put into a category where you are a kind of animal, or color, part of the body, historical martyr or type of plankton. In keeping with the trend of personality typing, here is my non-researched, non-accuracy tested, non-standardized personality test.

When you find that you have made a mistake that requires taking out 30 stitches, do you?
A. Quietly and politely take them out before you do anything else.
B. Avoid the mistake area and work somewhere else and tackle the problem in the morning.
C. Put the stitchery in time out and work on another one.
D. Take up a new hobby, preferably one without needles.

When stitching and you are hungry do you?
A. Wash your hands before you begin so your finger oils do not get on the fabric then abstain from food and drink in order to keep your stitchery in pristine condition.
B. Pay your kids in allowance to feed you potato chips.
C. Set up a ratio of 15 minutes stitching and five minutes eating, unless you make a mistake , put your stitchery in time out then move to a 50/50 ratio.
D. Only stitch with variegated fabrics so the food stains blend in.

How many cross stitches are you working on at any given time?
A. One. When you were a Bluebird (a pre-Campfire Girl) you learned through the Bluebird Oath (wish) that you “complete what I begin”.
B. One simple, small one and one big, complicated one. Oh yeah, and a Christmas ornament.
C. How many stitcheries can be in time out at any given time?
D. One and you only work on it when you go on vacation and you usually lose your needle in the hotel room carpet and it ends up in someone’s foot.

Are you a cross stitch pattern hoarder?
A. You reward yourself with a new one when you finish one, unless, of course, you find a good sale.
B. You have some stitchery projects from every decade: psychedelic circles from the 60s, an orange owl from the 70s, mauve and dusty blue geese from the 80s, florals from the 90s, crosses from the last decade, and from now on, Frony Ritter Designs.
C. Between all my stitcheries in time out and buying all the sparkly, pretty new fabrics and threads, you have enough to fill a small Uhaul.
D. One–and that one is on probation.

When you go into a cross stitch store:
A. You greet the owners politely and ask them about their kids, dogs, recent surgery, etc.
B. You like to take classes, learn new techniques, and find out the goings on around town.
C. You run excitedly from one new item to another, stuff them into your basket and then under your shirt as you try to pass your stash off to your partner as just a little recent weight gain.
D. The person taking you to the store has promised you either an ice cream, a pedicure, or happy hour following this ordeal. Oh yeah, you also need replacement needles as you lost yours in the hotel room.

Results:
If you answered mostly A: The Nicely Organized Stitcher. You are a happy, polite stitcher and always have your work in order. You would never find knotted up blobs of floss in your cross stitch bag, but you wouldn’t judge anyone else who did. You need to buy Frony Ritter Designs charts as you would not complain about any potential imperfections.

If you answered mostly B: The Faithful, Friendly Stitcher. You are a cross stitcher’s best cross stitching friend. You are easy going, don’t buck the trends, and make the best of any cross stitching mess. You like to mix your friends and your hobbies. You should buy Frony Ritter Designs for you and a friend.

If you answered mostly C: The Frenetic, Fun Stitcher. You remind me of a cartoon character, like maybe Daffy Duck. There is never a dull moment for you or those around you. However, there may not be much room for others around you since you are also a hoarder. (True confessions–this could be me). But, you wouldn’t want your things to get lonely. Get some of my charts also.

If you answered mostly D: The Almost, and hopefully Future Stitcher. No, don’t give up! Relax! Take some yoga classes then go to the home of Stitcher A and get encouragement and snacks. Then buy some charts from Frony Ritter Designs as they are not too difficult and fit easily into luggage. Bring an extra needle though.

A Christmas gift for You

For you dear readers who have endured my strange perspective on life and art, I would like to show my appreciation by giving you a gift to help you celebrate the holiday season. On my website, fronyritterdesigns.com I have the instructions for this ornament.

Here is a wee bit of history about this type of art. It is variation of a Pictish style. Picts were a group of late Iron Age, early medieval Celtic people from northern and eastern Scotland. Most historians believe they were called Picts because of the pictures, or tattoos they had on their bodies.

Now, the closest I have become to being a Pict was as a kid, when I was delighted to get a tattoo out of the Cracker Jacks boxes. You know, the ones where you lick the back of your hand, and press the tattoo so hard that it breaks 18 out of the 27 bones in your hand. I would walk with my tattoo obviously showing so the adults around me would comment, then say, “Yeah. I got this in Naam. I got blitzed one night and in the morning, there it was.” I was so convincing, I almost believed myself, other than that I was 7 years old and had no idea what the word blitzed meant.

If you would like to see some diagonal artwork that is a little similar, you can look back to the 9th century in the Gospels of Mac Durnan. The Gospel of Lindesfarne also has some diagonal work like this.

For those of you who do decorative painting, here is a pouch for a pen you can paint.

I used Deco Art paints, and Mill Hill beads for the necklace part. This could also be painted on paper for a bookmark or wood.

I have noticed when people talk about their favorite Christmas memories, it almost always involves crafting or creating something. Listen, and I bet you will hear the same thing.