Stitching · 2005-02-09

Siapo stitching project

I marvel at the real cross-stitch weenies who keep several projects going at once and attack them in 10-hour rounds. I tend to be more single-minded and only have limited time and attention for stitching, so I like to barrel through one project at a time. However, since I constantly feel the (entirely self-imposed) pressure to produce something fancy for the XML conference at the end of the year, I may be forced to begin timesharing soon.

Having completed a big XML-themed stitching project in time for XML 2004, I took a break in December. (I’m playing around with some ideas for an XML 2005 project, but I’m not ready to share those explorations yet.) In the meantime, with the prospect of lots of upcoming plane travel — where I do quite a bit of my stitching — I knew I had to get something else going. So I started this new pattern in January.

Siapo stitching project as of 9 February 2005
Siapo stitching project as of 9 February 2005

It’s an adaptation of designs and symbols traditionally painted on Samoan “siapo cloth” (like Hawaiian tapa cloth), though many of the symbols aren’t visible above just yet. I bought the pattern, along with a number of other south-Pacific-themed ones, on a trip back to Hawaii maybe a dozen years ago when I first ventured into stitching. I got it at the old Ben Franklin store in Hawaii Kai; I don’t think it’s there anymore and thought the company had gone out of business, but was delighted to see one in Redmond a couple of weeks ago. This listing shows that there are still quite a few in Hawaii, too. Cool!

The pace and “feel” of each project I’ve done have been quite distinct. I chose this one as a relaxing counterpoint to the previous one. Here are the most prominent features of this one:

  • Monochromatic floss. It’s all black; there’s no switching of colors, which makes it easy but a bit more boring. I do like the resulting stark figure/ground contrast, though. The DocBook project used 25 different blues, greens, and greys plus black, and it was quite pleasurable to work with that palette but some of the colors were hard to distinguish from each other.
  • Off-white fabric. I chose antique white Aida to give it a bit of that tapa-cloth look; something slubby might have been even better. It’s a relief to be working on a project that doesn’t depend on perfectly clean hands at all times (you’re supposed to wash your work at the end to get the finger oils out of it but I never do). I could even probably give it a “tea bath” at the end to increase the verisimilitude. Hey, and this means I probably don’t have to protect it so carefully when a flight attendant passes a drink over to the guy sitting next to me on the plane — a Coke bath would work just as well!
  • 18-count. I could have chosen any “granularity” (point size?) but chose something tiny so that it would look nice and fine. Unfortunately, it’s giving my incipient Over-40-Eyes Syndrome a tough time, and I’m finding that I really need my reading glasses. Next time 14-ct for sure…
  • Not designed by me. A nice break! The designer used a dot as the sole stitch-color symbol, and she obviously filled in every single one by hand — yikes. For some reason it reminds me of a music theory homework assignment I got in high school, where we had to compose a piece and do the score in pen (this was in the pre-music software days). I was late getting my assignment ready and did it in blessedly erasable pencil — then ran to the library and Xeroxed its final form. Voila, “pen” marks.
  • Not digitized into PCstitch. Thus, I don’t have precise numbers on how many stitches there are, and for the first time in a couple of years I didn’t start with a rough notion of how many hours it would take me. Like a progress dialog box for some kind of streaming process — no percentage bars here! — I’ll just chug away till I’m done.
  • Radially symmetric (palindromic?). Only one half of the pattern is provided; to do the other half, you flip the pattern around and start again. The whole thing is supposed to be vertically oriented, but the top half of the pattern is provided in counter-clockwise-rotated form. So the picture above technically should be rotated 90 degrees to the right, but I’m going to persist in thinking of it as horizontal until I’m done stitching. What’s extra-weird about all this is that normally my stitches are “bottom right to top left primary”, meaning that the top stitches in all cases stretch in that direction, but because of the flipping, this piece will ultimately be displayed as “bottom left to top right primary”. That sort of bothers me for some reason. [Uh, because you’re anal-retentive? -ed. Oh, shut up.]
  • Two strands. The DocBook project, which was on 14-ct, used three strands of floss for all the stitches. On this 18-ct fabric, two strands seem to give just enough coverage. Most of the time I’ve been threading a single strand and then doubling it up, which gives a whole different experience from threading two strands through and leaving a “tail” — the needle becomes sort of intrinsically connected to the piece and there’s no way you can lose it, but you’ll have to snip the thread to break the connection if you make any mistake that requires serious unpicking.

Whew. That’s enough waxing philosophical about stitching for now…