Manly Hands at Home: He’s Still At It!

In the hive of activity hereabouts, my hands are not the only ones that ply a needle and throw a shuttle.

I’ve written before about the manly maker in the house, the guy who has the patience for counted cross stitch and who weaves in the next room over from mine.

Don’s been busy!

His most recent weaving project was his most ambitious yet.

IMG_6585

He loves these complicated overshot patterns. It takes longer to dress the loom, with its diabolical threading pattern, than it does to actually do the weaving, and a moment’s inattention can throw the whole thing off.

This pattern is called Lee’s Surrender and I suspect many weavers have waved the white flag and given up on this overshot. But not Don! The weaving takes two shuttles and a combination of the off-white cotton thread, quite fine, and the tweedy blue-green wool that makes the pattern.

He also wove this runner as a custom request from a buyer. She had seen a similar runner in our Etsy shop but in burgundy, navy, and white, and asked Don to make her one in just navy and off-white. This is overshot, too, and the pattern is called Anabel.

IMG_6147

Weaving has taken time from his cross-stitch projects but he has worked on small projects to give him something productive to do as he watches March Madness. He’s made a bunch of these bookmarks—we will both need to do more reading!

And he continues work on his own Christmas stocking, to complement the one he made for me.

IMG_6660

He finished one gorgeous cross-stitched piece 4 years ago, a long, narrow bell pull design, and it has been rolled up in a drawer since then. When he recently pulled it out and asked me to finish it, I panicked! Me? Cut it? Sew it? Try to make it into the wall hanging it was meant to be? With him hanging over my shoulder the whole time?!

I don’t think so. Time to stick it back in the drawer.

But then we found the perfect solution. I’ve been following a blog for quite awhile, where the blogger, Karen, shows the end results of a wonderful service she offers.

In her business, Averyclaire Needle Arts, Karen takes other people’s work, their embroidery and cross stitch, and finishes them, in expert and creative ways, into pillows, ornaments, wall hangings, and small free-standing displays. The attention to detail is amazing! I knew Karen could handle what I could not!

I contacted Karen and within a few weeks she had transformed Don’s work.

IMG_6666

She communicated with me regularly, worked quickly, charged only a very reasonable fee, and amazed us with the product of her labor. Don’s handiwork is now permanently out of the drawer and being admired, as it so deserves. If you ever need finish work for your stitching, I can’t recommend Karen’s work highly enough!

Don and I do very different kinds of work. Even when we both weave, our weaving goes in completely different directions and reflects our personalities and aesthetics.

But it is wonderful to have someone under this same roof who shares my love of making and of creating, who can relate to the frustrations and the joys of the tasks at hand, who likes to be busy and productive, who loves to finish a project and can’t wait to start another one.

So I wonder—what will he make next . . . ?

“It’s All About Me” Monday: The Sampler

IMG_1390

You know the old joke—the vain, self-centered woman talks endlessly about herself, her accomplishments, her fashion sense. Then she stops and says, “But enough about me, let’s talk about you! . . . How do you like my hair?”

I feel this way about a lot of my blogging. Although I try to provide something of value to the reader, so much of what I write is all about me.

And it’s going to get worse! I have this desire to post about some of the things I’ve made in the past, a series that will be unapologetically self-centered (well, I’ll apologize now and then let it go).

I really want to do this, just for me, as a repository of some of the things I’ve made over the course of my life. As I wander around my house, I find things I’ve made in almost very room, a wide range of crafts I’ve made over the years. Some of the crafts have “stuck,” and I still do them today, but many have been dropped. Some of the things I keep around have been unfinished for 35 years or more!

First up, is a cross stitch sampler. I started this when I was about 20. It was a kit and the pattern was printed on the fabric—the days before counted cross stitch became all the rage. I liked everything about it—the alphabet applied to food, the rhyming words, the simple graphics. Only two embroidery stitches are involved—cross stitch and chain stitch.

I know I started it when I was in college because, at that time, I worked as a docent at a local historical house museum. I can remember sitting on the bench on the porch at the Kent-Delord House, in my 1970s prairie skirt and peasant blouse, stitching on the sampler while I waited for people to come to take a tour.

I was in grad school by the time I finished it and my grandfather framed it for me.

The sampler has been in my kitchen since, in several apartments and houses. I still like everything about it.

So, enough about me! Let’s talk about you. How do you like my sampler? Do you still have anything you made this long ago and still treasure?

246 Hours of Christmas Love

I’ve said it before and I’m sure to say it again.

I love Santa.

And I especially love this Santa.

IMG_4150It pains me that this Santa comes out only for a few weeks a year.

My husband, the cross stitcher, made this Christmas stocking for me—possibly the most perfect example of loving hands at home! At the time he made it, we lived in a big city and had a summer “camp” in upstate New York. We loved the rustic spot but only lived there for a couple months in the summer. We worked in the city and yearned for the country and the Adirondacks and Lake Champlain.

So he chose a cross-stitch pattern for my stocking that would bring the rustic to our city Christmas.

And being the kind of guy he is, he kept track of every minute he spent on stitching the very dense, detailed pattern.

It took him . . . wait for it . . . 246 hours and 20 minutes!

He also spent time figuring out about how much he made per hour, as a college prof and business consultant, and let me know how much the stocking was worth, if he had been paid that hourly wage to make it. It was a big number, reflecting big love.

He gave me the stocking 10 years ago today! Of course, I knew it was coming—he could never have worked so long on it without me knowing. But to see it all done, in its glory . . . well, every year when I take it out of storage, I’m amazed all over again!

In the 10 years since I received it, a lot has changed. He has made stockings for a sweet niece:

stockinga grandson:

IMG_1055and is currently working on a new stocking for a new grandson.

IMG_4296And we have moved from the city to our “camp” full time. We live in a rustic setting, in the country, and my Santa looks right at home.

It seems to me that this is what Christmas is all about. Being in a comfortable place that feels like home, with reminders of how very much one is loved.

If you celebrate Christmas, is there one ornament or decoration that sums up the meaning of holiday for you? I’d love to hear about it.

IMG_4153

Manly Hands at Home

Don stitch-4To read my blog, and much of what is written about the handmade and hand crafted, one might reach the conclusion that the only “loving hands at home” are female hands.

It’s time to challenge that thinking and start talking about the men who make beautiful things as well. While crafting often seems to be associated with women, we can find lots of examples of beautiful work, in many different media, done by men. And we should encourage it—why should women have all the fun and satisfaction?

It’s not surprising or unusual to find men working in wood and metal and clay. A museum of folk art, like the Shelburne Museum that I’ve mentioned elsewhere, has many examples of furniture and metalware, like weathervanes and hardware, made by men.

It’s less expected to see men’s work in the textile arts. The weaver’s trade was historically a male-oriented art, at least in some cultures, but work with textiles seems, now, to be heavily associated with women. And yet men are just as capable of beautiful, expressive hand-wrought work as women—so why don’t we talk about it more?

I’m going to and I’ll start at home! My husband has been making beautiful cross-stitch samplers for almost 25 years.

It all began in the early 1990s, when I started to make quilts. My husband, Don, was drawn to the craft, the colors and patterns, and wanted to jump right in and work with me.

What he found was that, with his big guy hands, he had trouble making the tiny stitches needed for piecing the patches and for hand quilting. But he wanted something creative to do while I quilted.

A trip to Colonial Williamsburg found him pondering old stitch samplers. The gift shop sold cross-stitch kits and, on a whim, he picked one up. And the rest, as they say, is history!

When he finished that design, he went looking for a new pattern. We went to an embroidery and quilting shop, where he picked out a pattern that looked more advanced. All the women in the store gathered around this guy who was, of course, the only man in the shop. “Oh, you’re going to make that one! How much cross-stitch have you done?” they asked.  “One project,” he answered.

Stunned silence. And a dozen women’s voices, all at once, trying to talk him out of it. To talk some reason into him. They said he should choose a different pattern and go slower and work his way up to the pattern he chose.

But we’re talking about a man, here! A former Marine, with two tours of duty in Vietnam. A college professor who doesn’t know the meaning of self doubt. A guy who, just like all of us, hates to be told he can’t do something and wants to prove he can!

So, of course he started that project and slogged through it. He pulled out a lot of stitches (and swore like a Marine every time!) but he finished that sampler, perfectly, and has gone on to make many more.

Our house is full of these beautiful creations, and other equally beautiful ones live in the homes of our family members. He has done marriage samplers and Christmas stockings for babies, all the kinds of projects one would expect from a pair of loving hands at home.

Don stitch-6 Don stitch-3 Don stitch-2And he gets such a kick out of it! Autumn weekends find him parked, with his enormous stitching stand, in front of the TV. He watches hours of college and pro football, while cheering on his teams and making teeny-tiny stitches on linen in a rainbow of beautiful colors. I’ve never quite figured out where he gets the patience (or why his big guy hands have adapted to this precise craft when they couldn’t adapt to quilting!)

I’d love to hear more about the men who make. Was your grandfather a furniture maker? Does your Dad have a craft? Does your significant other ever join in when you’re making something? Or are you a guy, yourself, who can tell us about what you make? Let’s hear it for manly, and loving, hands at home!Don stitch-7Don stitch-1