August 22, 2011

Phat Quarter Food Swap (or how I work the Simpsons into everything I do)

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , , , at 9:40 pm by Pam

I know that by now, I’ve expressed my love for the Phat Quarter a million ways. The Phat Quarter is the Flickr branch of the wonderful stitchers found on the Mr. X Stitch site. I feel honored every time one of my pieces goes up on Mr. X Stitch, and I wouldn’t be able to do half of what I am able to do if it weren’t for the people in the Phat Quarter and all the photos of their truly amazing creations.

Ok, enough of that.

Every few months, there’s a swap held on the Phat Quarter, with some theme to stitch around before mailing off to a stranger. This month’s theme was food – a perfect theme for a food blogger, no? Pop culture references usually go over pretty well in this group, so when a few different Simpsons quotes popped into my head immediately, I figured I had a good foothold on the subject (did I mention that I taught a class in college on the Simpsons for not one, but two semesters?). Then I found out the person I was mailing to is named Lisa (here’s her blog!), and ideas started to fall into place. I asked Lisa if she was a Simpsons fan to make sure my plan would work (although if she had said no, I don’t think I had a back up…).

I opted for one of my favorite lines of Simpsons dialogue, from the episode Lisa the Vegetarian (yep, the one with Paul and Linda McCartney)… only to find out that I have been misquoting the episode for years (and I use this quote pretty damn often). I like the version in my head better (“mystical, magical animal”), but I had to stick to the real quote for the stitching.

The whole time I was stitching this, I had a strong craving for bacon…


June 8, 2011

Phat Quarter Book Swap

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , at 9:14 am by Pam

My life has generally been beyond shitty lately, so when a new Phat Quarter embroidery swap rolled around, I was not particularly gung-ho on participating. But then I saw that the theme was books, and I felt that, as a librarian and bookseller, I would be remiss NOT to partake in the challenge. For someone who loves books as much as I do (have you been to my book blog?), you’d think I would have an easy time coming up with an idea, but I was stumped (that not-wanting-to-participate thing probably had something to do with that).

I was discussing Edward Gorey with someone at the bookstore one day, and finally inspiration struck. I flipped through the anthologies of his work (Amphigorey, Amphigorey Too, Amphigorey Also, and Amphigorey Again) and came across the above image, one that I had never noticed before. I thought it was more than perfect for the swap.

The piece is done all in backstitch, and while the original has a lot of muted color in it, I like the simplicity of black and white for Gorey’s art. I hope my swap partner anUnquietMind enjoys the piece.

I received this amazing piece from crafty mcgee. I sent her a bunch of ideas of books I love, including a link to my book blog, and she captured a scene from one of my favorite recent books, The Night Bookmobile by Audrey Niffenegger. The graphic novel tells the story of a mysterious bookmobile and a woman’s love of books. It’s a fast read. I even got two of my coworkers, neither of whom have ever read a graphic novel before, to read it through.

What I found especially touching is that the face detail on the left side of the bookmobile is actually from one of my photos that crafty mcgee pulled from my photostream. She did an amazing job capturing the image in a space the size of a quarter (here’s a comparison of the images). What she didn’t know, though, is that I look at the picture every day because it hangs right above my TV. And when I finally get around to hanging my Wall of Awesome (including this and all the other pieces I’ve received), the two will be near each other.

September 14, 2010

Phat Quarter Movie Swap

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , , , , , at 9:49 am by Pam

August was time for another Phat Quarter swap, this time themed around movies. I had so many ideas that I was having a hard time narrowing it down – One of my favorites like Donnie Darko? Zoolander? Or one of my favorite classics like La Voyage Dans La Lune? Metropolis?

In the end, I decided to go a little meta and stitch something about going to the movies. The 1953 animated short “Let’s All Go To The Lobby” is so classic that most people can recognize it (at least recognize the song). I took a screen shot from the video and fussed with it a little to make all the characters and expressions clear. (The front guy also has a lot of swagger in the video, so I stood him up a bit to line up with the others.)

I chose a fabric that looked a little like an old theater curtain, but since it was so dark, I had to draw the pattern on a piece of tear-away stabilizer (I did this before my doomed embroidereading piece, and thankfully this came out much cleaner). I feel like I learned a lot on this piece, and I can even see my own learning curve on it – the first character I did was the popcorn, and I screwed him up enough that he looks like he’s on a diet. My satin stitches aren’t perfect on this, but they’re better than they were at the start!

I also learned to love French knots on this piece. The popcorn is all French knots, with two stands of pale yellow and one of white for a butter-drenched look. I added them in a kind of a 3D effect so it would look like real popcorn, and I’m thrilled with the results. (Here are details of the candy bar, the popcorn, the candy box, and the soda.)

My piece went out to Smallest Forest, who creates some really gorgeous stuff. In return, I received the above piece, inspired by ET, from Helena Puck. Isn’t it cute?! She blended blue and gray floss to create a more moon-like color. I also love the idea of a hanger for display! So easy to make and yet it looks so graceful – I’m totally stealing this idea 🙂

All of the Phat Quarter movie swap pieces are here, if you want to take a look (and yes, you really do want to take a look).


June 18, 2010

Phat Quarter’s Zen Swap

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , , , , , at 1:59 pm by Pam

I think I’ve mentioned before that the Phat Quarter on Flickr is one of my favorite embroidery groups, and it has been a big inspiration to me in the past year as I’ve taught myself to embroider. Last month, I joined the second swap I’ve done with them (the first is here). The theme was “zen,” to be interpreted however we saw fit. I joined up, and only after did I realize that I had only the most cliche ideas of what zen was.

It was a terribly hot day in Boston, unseasonably hot, and the whole metro area was under a boil water order thanks to a busted water main. I felt gross and dirty and hot, and I sat with my electric fan blowing right on me. I sat down to brainstorm ideas, and after throwing away every thought that came into my head, I realized that the answer was right in front of me. There is something so very zen about staring into an electric fan on a hot day, knowing that you’ll be cool if you just stay in this one spot.

I didn’t like any of the clip art of fans I found online, so I took a bunch of photographs of my own fan against a white backdrop, then traced a (slightly) simplified line drawing from it. The fan is mostly in silver thread (a pain to work with, but it looks so pretty), and I enjoying figuring out which lines went over other lines and how to make the whole thing a little more 3D. I opted for long blue “ribbons” to show the movement and evoke the coolness of the breeze. A closeup shot of the fan itself is here.

As soon as this was done, I packed it up and mailed it out to sailor.mouth (who made an awesome zen Steven Seagal for the swap).

A few days after mailing off my piece, I got this wonderful piece in return from seamlessgem. I love the simplicity of it, and the way she used free-motion machine embroidery to fill in the shaded space. It’s going to look amazing on my Wall of Awesome!


March 12, 2010


Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , , , at 4:47 pm by Pam

One of the big things that has gotten me so enthusiastic about embroidery is the needlework groups I’ve found on Flickr. I like the setup of Flickr for these communities better than discussion boards because it’s built around the image – the thing you’ve made – rather than the words. Ask a question and you’ll get answers, but I’ve found that the best way to learn this art is to pay attention to what other people are doing, and their pictures are a perfect way to do this.

My favorite group right now is Phat Quarter, which is the Flickr pool for readers of Mr X Stitch. The people posting in this group are just my kind of people – they’ve all put their own modern spin on embroidery, and I love almost every piece that gets posted. So last month, when the details for a Comic/Cartoon-themed swap were announced in the Phat Quarter group, I signed up before I could realize that I didn’t know the first thing about swaps.

No worries – swaps are just what they sound like. You make something and put it in the mail to someone else. You get something else in return. Easy. I ended up mailing this Tick piece off to Giddy Girlie, who herself makes amazing pop culture pieces (not just embroidery, but paintings and more!). The piece I got just came in and I’ll post about it soon.

Why the Tick? It was one of my favorite cartoons when I was a kid. I think it was on when I was in middle school, and I used to quote it daily (I still quote it, just not that often). My favorite line is “Today is my birthday – I think I’ll celebrate by inventing agriculture.” The live-action show that was on later was short-lived but fantastic – you can watch it on Hulu. There are just so many amazing moments, and I went with the iconic moment when the Tick chooses his battle cry – Spoon!

For this piece, which is about 5×7, I used crayons to tint the fabric, then used satin stitch and my own weird version of outline stitch* (there are a few stray straight stitches and French knots in there too). I’m really happy how he turned out, and I’m feeling like I might need to make another one just for me.

*I say my own version of outline stitch because I kind of figured out how to do it on my own and it’s more of a back stitch than the real thing.