Friday, December 23, 2011

Joo-lene is my sunshine

One of the most amazing people in my life is my friend Juline.

It is difficult to explain how much I love her and how talented and creative she is. Juline is beautiful, kind, smart and funny. She has an enviable career as a museum education curator at an amazing museum (the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University). On top of all of that, she has helped me through one of the most difficult periods of my life.

So, I made her a small Christmas present. A stitched version of how she spells her name phonetically on her name tags so that people know how to pronounce it. I stitched it on this Japanese cotton fabric that I adore.

Juline and I at the Geer St Garden

Juline and I have been each other's dates at many parties and events. It's funny to me that we both have such challenging, off-the-beaten-tract names. (I mostly go by "O" and I usually show people the tattoo inside my left wrist, so it is relatively easy for me.) But she explains her name clearly to the other party goers.

There is more to come about my sweet friend Juline. Especially about her wonderful fixation with hexagons. But for now, here we are.

And here is another Christmas present that I made for a very discrete, silver foxy friend that I'll say nothing else about. But I wanted to share my work, none-the-less.

Merry Christmas, kids!

Juline and I in a photo booth at the Nasher

Monday, December 19, 2011

This monkey has gone to heaven

This is a case where my execution hasn't lived up to the potential of the design.

I saw this amazing and simple evolution pattern on the Coyote Craft blog a while back and I was instantly attracted to it. Bean Paulson designed it for Darwin Day back in 2009. Her original free pattern was the outline of an evolving man, minus the party theme. For some reason, when I came upon it, I thought of a celebration.

So, to her crisp, clear design, I added a party hat, Mardi Gras beads, a birthday crown and decadent, slightly raunchy elf boots. And I thought they would look nice on cocktail napkins.

But as I've been stitching them, I've been disappointed with my own execution. And the split stitch I've been using.

But I still see a lot of potential in the design itself... just not on these plain cotton cocktail napkins. And not in this split stitch.

So, I'm casting about for a new ground fabric and a new stitch. I plan to keep my altered version of her pattern, but I need to find a new way to translate it into stitch.

(And, for the record, I think government and politics need more science as part of the discussion, not less. Sorry Santorum, but you're wrong. And will someone please ask Gingrich about his take on evolution? I need a laugh.)

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Flashback: Free pattern for Mrs. Claus' Date Night Handbag Ornament

Doing a good bit of Christmas gift stitching these days and I can't post photos of what I'm working on until my items are in my loved ones' hot little hands. I know other bloggers must find this time of year challenging for this reason, too!

So instead, at the bottom of this post, I've included my simple knitting pattern for my Mrs. Claus' Date Night Handbag Ornament. They are easy, quick and fun to make, so there is still time to get them on your tree!

I made these bags in earnest last year. My life could not be more different now than it was at this time a year ago. After being married for many years, I now live on my own (for the first time in my life) in a sunny, brightly colored apartment. I have many new people in my life, including a foxy new squeeze. The present is filled with art, stitching, music, friends, hiking, red wine and my current baking obsession. The future is enormous, wide opened... terrifying and exciting at the same time.

This year Christmas feels shadowy and distant. It's as though I'm looking at it through the milky film stuck to the sides of glass, after I drank the milk. I'm aware that it is happening, but I am not immersed in it, beyond stitching a few gifts.

But that's OK. Time is mercurial, as is life. And my eyes and heart are wide opened and ready for adventure.

And I take another step forward...

Pattern for Mrs. Claus' Date Night Handbag (adapted from my Ornamental Joy - Tiny Handbags pattern that was published in the String Thing Theory pattern book back in 2009.)

Approximately 30 to 40 yards of any type of feltable yarn. In order to felt, your yarn must be animal fiber: cottons and acrylics will not felt. 
Set of 5 dpns in the appropriate size for your yarn.
Gauge is irrelevant!
Body of bag: 
Cast on 11 stitches 
Knit garter stitch for 6-7 rows to form a little rectangle. This will become the base/bottom of the bag. At this point you’ll switch to knitting in the round.
Pick up and knit 3 stitches along the first short side of the rectangle base. 
Pick up and knit 11 stitches along the other long side of the rectangle base. 
Pick up and knit the remaining 3 stitches on the second short side of the rectangle base.
Place marker to indicate beginning of round.
At this point you’ll knit in the round (in a rectangle shape) by knitting all rolls until the bag is about 3 inches, or as tall as you want it to be before felting, ending on a short side of the rectangle. You’ll now do one decrease row.
Long Side one, K2tog, K until the last 2 stitches from the end of that side, K2tog. 9 stitches remaining.
Short Side one, K2tog, K. 2 stitches remaining on that side.
Long Side two, K2tog, K until the last 2 stitches from the end of that side, K2tog. 9 stitches remaining.
Short Side two, K2tog, K. 2 stitches remaining on that side.
Knit one more round.
Bind off all stitches. 
Weave in ends.
Felt the bag: 
To felt, place the bag in a lingerie pouch and run through the washing machine cycle on the highest heat and agitation available for your machine. Include a towel or pair of jeans with the wash so that the bag is agitated as much as possible. 
Decorating your bag: 
Use any fluffy white novelty yarn as the faux fur; simply sew around the top of the felted bag. I make my bag handles out of pearl beads strung on florist wire. Simple string beads onto 3 or 4 inches of florist wire, twist of the ends, and using a clear thread, sew into the inside of your bag. 
Just play!
Copyright Olisa Corcoran 2011 

Thursday, December 8, 2011


Nicole, designer extraordinaire of Follow the White Bunny fame, knows how to deliver on hedgehogs.

Stitched up this little hedgie for my String Thing ornament swap. Her free pattern for it is found here. But do check out her blog and her pattern shop. I want everything I see!

Back to stitching or I'll never get these ornaments done...

Friday, December 2, 2011

Big Yes! Runaway by Aubrey Longley-Cook

I adore series that explore a theme, subject or medium. In embroidered art, I've never seen one quite like this crazily innovative series by Atlanta artist Aubrey Longley-Cook. We're talking about combining the beautifully slow, methodical process of stitching with computer animation. No, I'm not kidding.

Runaway 7, by Aubrey Longley-Cook, 2011

Meet Gus, who Longley-Cook informs us on his edgy blog spool spectrum, is a stray found wandering the streets of Atlanta who was rescued by his room mate.

I adore this piece alone for the way he stitched the fur, in pooled shades of color, and the lovely sense of movement he captured. His stitching has an ecstatic, hugely energetic quality in this single embroidery. This is a masterful rendering of a running dog in a textile art piece.

Runaway 4, by Aubrey Longley-Cook, 2011

But Longley-Cook, who often works in series, doesn't stop with this one image. Consider this next embroidery of gus. Look at the change in his body position, the horizontal line of his back, the curve of his tail, the ear position, three paws, and closed mouth. Look at the giraffe-like spotting of his coat, again stitched in sectioned clumps.

Runaway 1, by Aubrey Longley-Cook, 2011

Keep going. The tail position changes. The snout rises. The mouth opens. The coat spots move. The stitching remains fluid and clustered, somehow, at the same time.

Runaway 10, by Aubrey Longley-Cook, 2011

How about this piece and the movement it conveys.

Runaway 13, by Aubrey Longley-Cook, 2011

And the leaping energy of this one. Consider the way the line of the piece changes with the diagonal positioning of his body. The loop of his tail is reflected in the curl of his front paws. You can feel Gus running. His mouth is opened. His ears flap.

Runaway 14, by Aubrey Longley-Cook,  2011

And then the final piece in which Gus is almost a stitched blur. Look at the way Longley-Cook has changed the shading of his coat, with the heavy, deeper tan on the dog's belly in long stitches.

Now scroll back and look at the pieces as a series of work. On spool spectrum, the artist features 14 embroideries from this series.  Each image is a beautiful, fully-realized capture of the energy, movement and expression of the dog. Taken all together, I am struck by how these pieces are a study of movement, frame-by-frame, rendered in thread.

Now, please go to Longely-Cooks blog HERE and prepare yourself for an unexpected experience in embroidery.

This animated artwork is not merely a novel trick, and it's more than a stitched version of magic flip cards. The way he captures movement through his stitching is incredibly inspiring and eye-opening to me. Actually, that is an understatement.

(And because I'm nothing but a huge nerd, check out this animated clip of the back of his work! It's like looking behind a curtain. It feels so bad!)

Spend some time with Longley-Cooks other series. The man breaks it down. He is badass and hugely talented.

Big, huge, freaking YES!

"Big Yes!" is a new feature on my blog where I will, with their permission, share a piece of textile art that has opened my eyes to the possibility of what we can create.  When faced with things that are truly beautiful or moving or that fill me with awe, I try to say yes. More than that, Big Yes.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

"Who wants to be alone in this shit hole world," he asked me.

Stopped to pump gas on Thanksgiving morning (after a lovely night celebrating my birthday) and I was greeted by a neat and tidy homeless man (leather jacket, shiny black backpack and gray braid running down his back) who was sitting on the curb, eating noodle soup from a tall paper cup.

He smiled at me in a warm, friendly, non-threatening way and said, “Have any men told you yet that you’re beautiful today, 'cause you are.”

I laughed, going along with his flirting, but also being honest, and said, “Well, yes another man did tell me that today, already. But thank you, anyway.”

He stopped smiling and cocked his head. “Good. That’s the way it should be. You should hear it all of the time. And you should hang on to this guy, OK?”

“Hang on to him? I will if I can, but how do you ‘hang on’ to anyone? What’s your advice?”

I'd intended this as a harmless question. Or, if not completely harmless, I thought that an older homeless man chatting up a friendly, happy woman on a warm, sunny morning could certainly take it. But.

“That’s a serious question, beautiful. One that I want to be able to help you with.” He laid his soup cup on the curb and rubbed his short beard.  “But I think you’re talking to the most broken man in the world when it comes to 'hanging on' to anything.”

I was simply being playful with a stranger about “hanging on” to a man I care about, but I recognized that I struck a vein.  I decided that, instead of regretting what I’d said, I’d sit next to him on the curb and hear his story.

The conversation didn’t get clearer after I plopped down and we’d introduced ourselves. The fractured nature of his thoughts quickly became obvious. What I did learn was that is name is Oscar, he thinks Eve was a small, dark-haired woman who looked just like me, that he greets people by locking pinkies with them, and that he spent 25 years in prison.

But the words that stuck with, what I’m stitching here on this scrap of silkscreened fabric by Rebecca Ringquist, are these:

“I can’t believe that I could do
what they say I did.

I’ve been going over it in my head for 25 years.

No way. I miss him so much.

You can’t imagine how much I miss him, O.  Now I’m alone.

Who would want to be alone in this shit hole world?”

Must confess to some guilt about not making this stitched piece prettier. But fast, rough split stitch suits my mood about it. It was a beautiful interaction. And it was profoundly ugly.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Sketches for the Great Curve & a Stitchgasm

Still in the sketching phase of a self portrait. I know that I need to make the move onto fabric and just start thread sketching. Moving slowly but I'm making progress.

Playing with the image against blue Balinese batik

I envision the piece on the blue Balinese batik ground fabric above. I think. I'm attracted to the watery colors with patterns of plant life upon it.  Trying to simply the image my friend Alex took in May 2011. Layering it on the fabric and on other sheets of paper. I just need a basic outline and then I'll let the stitching guide me.

Simplified outline pattern

I think I'll go with this very basic sketch to start with and take it from there. Removed the fingers from my shoulder and changed the hair, which was in a pony tail. This is a slow-going project. I'm  playing and sketching with thread.

With the holidays coming, I have all sorts of simple stitched gifts to make for friends and family. Luxuriating stitching simple things for my loved ones. But I can't show the work in progress here because I don't want to ruin any surprises. I can say that I'm stitching names, words, lightening, clouds, bears, squirrels and rabbits... but that's all that I'll say!

Spinach quiche for my fiber arts group

Been cooking and baking a lot and experimenting with new tools, like the pie cutters I used to make the leaf design above. Trying to bring visual pleasure to the experience of tasting my food. Hardly an original concept! Haven't been an overly hearty eater of late -- the stress of this year killed my appetite but as I get happier, it is coming roaring back. But I love food and preparing for people I care about. And trying to make it as lovely for them as I can.

On the inter webs front, I was uber geeked to be featured in a Stitchgasm from MrXStitch for my Do Not Eat! and Do Not Enter! hazard signs! And I'm grateful to Denise Fenton at for blogging about my Big Yes! features. I have a new Big Yes! in the works that is going to blow your freaking minds, peeps! Keep an eye out.

Finally, take a listen to the Talking Heads The Great Curve. As David Byrne sings: The world turns on a woman's hips.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Big Yes! Flea by MimiLove

Prepare to be overwhelmed by a wild symphony of color, paint, stitching, textures and imagery.

Detail from Flea, 2011, by MimiLove

Welcome to the fantastic world of MimiLove! She is a furnace of creativity and energy. I've never seen anyone doing work quite like hers.  An talented painter, Mimi creates multi-textured images on canvas and fabric, bouncing the color and compositions of her paintings against the layers of luminous needlework.

Take a look at the detail from her piece Flea. Mind you, this is just one small section of the piece, but look at the way the near rainbow of thread colors and variety of stitches (pierced into canvas, for f#ck's sake!) forms a lovely, unexpected membrane over the wash of paint underneath.

Her artwork has a feeling of depth that is unique. I want to say her images are encrusted with stitch and paint, but that word sounds too heavy and static for the lightness and energy they convey.

Detail from Pig, 2011, by MimiLove

Take some time to explore Mimi's beautiful artwork on her flickr stream. And treat yourself to reading her playful, music-infused blog. (Her etsy shop keeps me lusting, too.) Her posts are wonderful... she give her readers a window into this expansive, warm, creative soul. I'm not exagerating. Plus she writes about and literally shows, through photos of her work in progress, how she creates her artwork. You see the actual layers come together, like she does in this post about Flea. (As a stitcher and artist, I find it very generous of her to share the details of her process with us.)

Ahhh... Big Yes! to MimiLove! She is sunshine and artistry in stitch and paint. And I bet she tastes like a wild, unexpected cakelet.

"Big Yes!" is a new feature on my blog where I will, with their permission, share a piece of textile art that has opened my eyes to the possibility of what we can create.  When faced with things that are truly beautiful or moving or that fill me with awe, I try to say yes. More than that, Big Yes.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Do Not Eat! at sea with Salvaged Mutiny... And my fun at the seashore

In its new home on ship

Can I tell you how happy I am that Do Not Eat! finished its journey to Salvage Mutiny (a.k.a. the textile artist Joanne Donne)?  The little embroidery has a new home on her ship, where it will take other journeys with its new owner, surrounded by a crazy collection of unstitched hazard symbols like the one above. I'd be in trouble surrounded by all of those signs!

Joanne blogged about it here, on her wonderfully named blog, "A Crafter at Sea." Her artwork is amazing and worth spending gobs of time exploring.

Yes! It's a self portrait while biking...skillz!

I'm back from a beautiful weekend at Nags Head on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Feeling sleepy but recharged. I trekked over dunes at Jockey's Ridge, wandered along the beach, hiked through swaps and wetlands, rode bicycles (which made me feel like a 10-year-old, pony-tailed girl) and luxuriated in the sunshine, fresh breezes and new smells. And in the fabulous company and conversation of my traveling companion.

Please, no martinis at Jockey's Ridge, NC.
(Photo & caption by Andy)
Stitching my small gifts for friends and feeling more confident about my bigger self-portrait, which I plan to sketch and design this week. In my darker moments, I wonder how I deserve all of this pleasure, happiness and creativity and I fear that it will come crashing down upon me.

New hazard sign to create and stitch: "No Darkness Allowed!"

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Stitching small but living HUGE

Struggling with a self portrait that I'm trying to do, so I've put it to the side and I'm working on small, simple, playful embroideries for people I care about.

Big Thunder 1

Stitched up this riotous thunder storm for a friend on a bit of tropical fabric I've had for years. It's a very simple and tiny piece that I finished in a couple hours. I used shiny silver rayon thread, alternating between one and three strands (depending on the thickness of the lightening) and did it all in split stitch.

Lightening bolts in silver split stitch

My intent was for him to put it on his office bulliten board and to make him laugh or smile when he looks at it.

Alex shares my tongue-in-cheek appreciation for
Neil Diamond...

Now I'm working on another simple little piece for Alex using this crazy purple cloud fabric...

Something nutty for my girl Juline

...and one for Juline using this bit of Japanese cotton that I just adore. I want to make them laugh a bit. To feel some of my happiness and love for them. And lightness. So much heavy stuff in all of our hearts.

I'll find my way back to the bigger pieces, right?

For now, I'll keep showering my huge affection on my peeps with smaller stitches.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Big Yes! Two Satrys by Bascom Hogue

How do you write about someone who so inspires you?

Two Satyrs by Bascom Hogue

Bascom Hogue is hardcore. A complicated, vibrantly talented artist and soul. Can you believe the stitches in this redwork artwork of two satyrs? The expression on their faces. The gesture of the hands of one satyr in the beard of the other. Look at the hatch marks -- simple lines -- that Bascom uses to depict the body and facial hair. Look at the varying thickness of the stitches around the outer edges.

And the beautiful satyr on the right... his Adam's apple has vulnerability and poignancy to it that takes my breath away. I can imagine the mad-eyed satyr opening his mouth and ripping into his throat. Bascom has depicted them as wild animals in near human form.

Detail from Two Satyrs

We are so lucky to have access to Bascom's work. I'm beyond fortunate to be able to communicate with him online... to hear his thoughts and musings about the world. On his blog, Bascom describes himself like this: "I like reading, sewing, art, food, dogs (I love dogs), animals, and people. My mother is Jewish and my father is Mennonite. I have a tendency to see two sides to most situations."

Spend some time on Bascom's blog or flickr stream. (His work is also featured in Push Stitchery by Jamie MrX Stitch Chalmers.)  Prepare to be unnerved. In the best sense.

"Big Yes!" is a new feature on my blog where I will, with their permission, share a piece of textile art that has opened my eyes to the possibility of what we can create.  When faced with things that are truly beautiful or moving or that fill me with awe, I try to say yes. More than that, Big Yes.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Two feathers, unworried, drift away

My simple little feathers are on the way to Jude Hill's Magic Feather Project where they will join hundreds of other feathers in some master project created by Jude's insanely imaginative mind.

At Umstead Park, where I hiked with Katherine

So nice to work on such a small project.

Clear & complicated

The tall feather represents a friend. It is long, clear and strong, like he is. But as I was stitching it, I realized that the feather is far more complicated than it looks, just like him. The piles of satin stitch look crisp, but they are densely packed and layered. They have a unpredictable texture, thicker in some places and finer in others. It's as if life has worn it down unevenly since it departed its bird.

Weathered but strong

The second feather, mottled and weathered, represents me. It is less crisp, more bent. It's missing patches, just like I am. But it is lovely in its own, worn way.

The ground fabric is a scrap of a silkscreen by Rebecca Ringquist, a wonderful Brooklyn-based textile artist from whom I was fortunate enough to take two embroidery classes at Squam Art Workshop back in 2010.

Sending these feathers, which I'll never see again, to the Magic Feather Project reminds me of an experience that I had a Machu Picchu many years ago. I was standing alone on the Sun Temple in the unfamiliar Andean light. The wind whistled in my ears. I was sad and worried but I couldn't say why. I wanted to connect to the incredible beauty and strange energy of the place, but I didn't know how.

Sun Temple, Machu Picchu, Peru

As ridiculous as it sounds, I pulled seven strands of hair out of my head and made wishes for seven people in my life, including myself. Wishes for peace and laughter and moments of joy. And I released each strand of hair into the wind. I started to feel self-conscious, ironic and to laugh at my own attempt at a ceremony. But my laughter was overpowered by an unexpected gasp of emotion and, instead, I cried. Not bitter tears. Just tears for my own smallness and aloneness in the vastness of that place and of the world.

Next to Reedy Creek Lake
I did not cry while sending these feathers off. So much has happened since those tears in Peru, so much has been lost. Now it's laughter and joy at being alive.

Why worry?

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Two feathers taking a leap

Flitting about in my creativity. Unsure of how to approach the two bigger stitched portrait projects I have in have in mind. So I decided to makes something small but meaningful to me.

Wrapped back stitch along the matching feather spines.

Two feathers for Jude Hill's Magic Feather Project, which she describes as, "a collective stitching project focused on creative sharing and giving."

She is going to collect 1,000 of these stitched feathers and create a larger piece, or pieces, that will be auctioned off for charity.  So far she has collected 445. It is fun to scroll through her Gathering Feathers gallery, featuring the feathers other stitchers have sent it to her. Such a simple image, a feather, but there are so many ways to create one.

I love deep red, yellow-green and blues.

I knew that I wanted to make a feather that represented me. To stitch myself into the fabric and release the piece into the world. 

Detail of the spines

But as I was drawing, I realized that I wanted to make a feather representing a friend of mine who has been going through a difficult time in his life. To imagine good things for him as I stitch his feather into the fabric. And then to send both of our feathers out into the world, to land wherever the wind takes them, and to become a part of a finished collaboration we will most likely never see.

I don't mean any of this in a New-Age sense. The truth is, this language makes me uncomfortable. But sometimes you just have to make that leap beyond your own discomfort -- in friendships, in art, in your life. All of the most beautiful things that I've ever done or experienced have required me to make a jump while holding my breath.

The ground fabric is a silk screen scrap by Rebecca Ringquist.

And even if the language is a little awkward to me, the feeling of letting go feels true... letting go of the feathers, of the past and of your grief.