Monday, November 20, 2006

this is what i did between bouts of hacking, barfing and trying not to pee myself from all the hacking and barfing. Yes, it's been nothing but refined and tasteful family fun here at rancho FirstNations.

I have mentioned in passing that I like to do embroidery.
Well I do. Like to do embroidery.
It's a perfect sick-person craft. The supplies are small and not too messy and the working of it is fascinating in the best sense of the word; it captivates your full interest.

I taught myself embroidery when I was about twelve or so and by the time I was in high school I was embroidering Levi jeans, jackets and cutoffs for $$bux. Lotsa peace signs, dope leaves, that 'Cocaine' design that looked like the Coca-Cola script, album covers, 'Keep On Truckin', etc. (It was the 'Seventies, ok?) I never did the tea towel and antimacassar thing. I learned to make all these dainty little stitches through heavy denim because I didn't know any better. That and nobody was asking me to embroider 'Things go better with Cocaine' on tea towels. The unexpected side benefit of all this was, I got fast, because I wanted that cash, and I developed a lot of strength and dexterity in my hands.

I wanted to make a quilt out of embroidered patches. In order to keep this quilt from ending up weighing 50 pounds I couldn't use full weight denim. That meant I had to re-learn all my techniques when I started working on lighter weight cloth. I still have a really heavy touch so I have to stitch all my fabric into the embroidery frame or else it warps. Once I do that, though, I can work in fine detail at an even faster pace and use longer hanks of thread - heavy fabric wears thread down to a hair so you have to keep it short if you want your finished design to look nice. I work like lightning now, and thats a new and interesting thing. If you're, you know, sick and limited in terms of outside stimulation.

The stitches I rely on most of all are the split stich, wrapped split stitch, the chain, backchain, buttonhole and modified french knot. I used to work a lot of things in blocked or couched satin stitch, but it doesn't hold up well under wear. Lately I've been using forbidden stitch and although it's ruining my eyesight, the outcome is dazzling!
Every one of the following images can be clicked on and enlarged, in case you are bored enough to want to examine the work closely. So here ya be:

Three kinds of bumblebees that live in my garden, full and fat and all loaded up with pollen. I didn't include the stingers because this is a friendly quilt and maybe little kids might sleep under it, so you don't want stingy bees.

A single wild rose with a variegated petal. This is in honor of my grandmother, whose name was 'Rose', and so it is simple, beautiful and old fashioned.

Here's one for you cat lovers. This marmelade kittys' name is, of course, 'Kells'. He started out plain, but ended up illuminated. I thought this sleeping cat looked very much like calligraphy and vicey voisey, so I hung some from his tail and illuminated that, too.

Everyone always wants to see what the back looks like. So here ya go; the back. Looks like crap, right? Thats why it's not the front.
I tack these patches onto a percale backing which protects the knots and bridges. Sometimes I'll dab a bit of clear nail polish on things if they seem tenuous just to be sure. Another leftover from working on denim clothes; things have to be sturdy.

The Mystic Pontiac 442 Tesseract of Mystery! I thought it would be neat to have the shadow of a fourth dimensional object on my quilt. Drawing a hypercube is a lot harder than you'd think it would be. I was going to make it look all electrical and lightning-y, but I decided to customize it with hot rod flames instead.

The initials of a person who paints like a magician. I hope it doesn't look like he owns the Gas company. It's supposed to be an attenuate painters brush.

This is a blue frog with a wand of black pussywillow over the top and a wand of staghorn willow on the bottom. I started it 2 weeks before the Goonybird was born; my willows were in bloom then and they'd come on like mad things!
When the Goonybird emerged he was cerulean, shaped small and sweet like a small frog you find in the garden, all curled up and blinking. He changed from blue to pale pink to vermillion like a chameleon, all in the space of five minutes, and then he was in our world.

Ok. Thats the result of seven days work. Next are a few pieces I've done in the past and an overview of the project so far. So sit down, strap in, and keep your head, hands and feet inside of the car while this ride is in motion, kids!

This is very much like a beautiful (dead) moth I used to have (tacked to my kitchen wall with a straight pin). When it fell apart I copied this picture of it out of a book. I did it in full strength thread (six strand floss) using a seed stitch and french knots to represent its' matte, velveteen texture.

Step back; the grooviness is almost too much for mortal eyes to bear!
This is cotton floss worked on a cotton-polyester ground, and the polyester content has made it pucker over time. Had it all been pure cotton all the fibers would have 'come into agreement' after being washed and dried on a flat surface and the piece would have remained relatively stable. All embroidery puckers to a certain extent, though. Just not this damn much.

This is an imaginary spider. Honest. I had Shelob in mind; the first Ring movie had just come out. I had a blast working in the beads and the different strengths and stitches of floss to represent the crustaceous abdomen.

I join different patches together on the backing with an embroidered overlay. This is a fatty-fat little chinese good luck bat and some chinese clouds for him to fly through.

Tree copied from a medieval manuscript. The red fruits are fancy cast glass beads and stand proud of the surface. Those sapsuckers are fastened on like barnacles, too...I used fishing line and nail polish to reinforce them. I ain't fucking around here.

Tree copied from a Persian manuscript. Experimenting with a more traditional look I worked in a very loose stitch here and didn't like it much. It's pretty, but it pulls, and eventually it will come out. Traditional embroidery was more for looking at than using.

My girldog Jett. Although she is black, not blue, and does not fly. Much. I'll sew the patch with the stingless bumblebees next to her so she can always play with her favorite toys and never have to worry about them biting her back. Yes, her head really is that small in relation to the rest of her, poor dippy thing.

A cartoon rendering of my boydog Opie, tatoing.
And farting.
Both dogs are done in contoured forbidden stitch with a wrapped split stitch outline and lettering. Opie also sports a split stitch aura of mystic tatoness.

...And this, finally, is a really bad overview of the work so far; at least the stuff on backing. Theres a whole pile of other finished patches waiting to be pieced and joined. However I intend to spare you.

For now.


  1. Holy cow, FN! I do not understand one whit of the various stitch-talk, but you sure are talented and creative! (and... have a lot of time on your hands.. heh)

    Too cool. I want one. Oh, and once you're done you should just sent it posthaste to the American Folk Art Museum. They are going to want it, and then I can visit it, since it's near my work.

    Embroidered tato farts - those are the best!

  2. Anonymous3:58 PM

    Speechless - someone in this circle of wasters and late night posters actually has a talent!!

  3. danator: didja like the cat?didjadidjadidja? i had noshit sherlock and you on my mind when i did this.
    and omg...the FOLK ART MUSEUM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    home of some of my most one hundred percent of America all time favorites of the world and the whole universe and mars too! Rockin Mary! Girl With A Large Dog!
    mutley dog: no, i'm a waster AND a midnight toker-um, blogger. really.
    i am.

  4. It's all gorgeous - and the cat was lovely. Did you have Pangur Ban in mind when you did that? (even tho its yellow not white). How long will it take to finish? If the steroids do their work will you be too busy making the beast with two backs to continue with this?

    p.s. re the meme thing - if you are inclined Realdoc did a succinct explanation on November 9th. As I was commenting anyway . . .

  5. mangonel: yes! 'i and pangur ban my cat, tis a like task we are at, chasing mice is his delight, chasing words i'm up all night!' as i remember it, badly. was pangur ban white?

  6. Yup - it means 'white cat'. Also, I forgot to say, 'Go medieval siege engines!' Now if your beautiful and talented daughter could build me a functioning Stephen Mangan that would make me so happy. I would spraypaint my gangname on your car for FREE.

  7. hello! thanks for your visitation and the roses! hope you are feeling better? i dont have much time to stop and read everything, but suffice to say you are most clever, and i love the bumble bees and the blue dog is ace, and of course i love the farting dog. all so colourful and lovely! x

  8. So, can I place an order for some completely badass FN/Awaiting something or nother? I mean, you are mucho talentedo! I always wanted to take up knitting/cross-stitching/embroidery but just way to lazy.

    I now, bow to you. And I still want my burrito!

    Joanne's...I will never forget.

  9. this is spectacular! You are so talented - I want one too!
    Hope you're feeling better by the way :)

  10. . . . the full horror of FN's Parcel marked "to not open till Christmas" begins to dawn on Frobisher . . .

  11. Anonymous4:54 AM

    Oh. My. Fuck.

    You embroidered a FART.

    You are my hero, my goddess, my supreme intergalactive overlady.

    *bows down in reverent worship*

    I also especially liked the Kells Cats. Big surprise there.

  12. Wow - you are so prolific - you have done so much! Firsty - you are a great woman of many talents. xx

  13. Anonymous9:21 AM

    You are a woman of many talents! Those things are beautiful. I stand in awe of you.

  14. mangonel: learn something new every day! thanks! and meme: wilco, SAH!
    pod: your last post was a thing of beauty. with the picture as cherry on top. we think alike, podlet!
    awaiting: i would be more than happy to embroider something for you. even a burrito. or a shotglass cozy for your mother, who rocks the house! (i do that to my daughter all the time...i make shit up and watch her tweak. i am really mean.)
    ziggi: oh gawrsh. sator, opera, arepo, tenet....
    frobisher: darling, put down the grapefrooooot for a moment; you've gone all William Burroughs on me. but now that you've put the idea in my head...*follows farting dog with a jar and a lid*
    cb: big praise coming from the demon rowing goddess of Britain! now take some vicodin, fasten that lumbar support belt and bring on the Pirate!
    rocky: but i have yet to match your noble attainments. blogging from the throne room? pure damn class AND postmodern! take a bow!

  15. pam: you slid in under the wire there. thank you, m'dear. how are you making out during all this weather? did you ever lose power? stupid rain.

  16. Yes, I loved Kells Kitty with Keltic Kalligraphy! Looks like my mom's marmalade girl, Annie.

    If you are ever in NY we shall go to the folk art museum together. You can school me on the art and I can give you a backstage tour of the opera.

    You do realize that everyone is going to be putting in orders, now, don't you. Me first! ;o)

  17. Anonymous11:06 AM

    God an artistic, talented type person. Those are all really brilliant. I especially like the kells cat being a cat-owning Irish person and the Persian tree because I like trees and persian is a nice word.

  18. Well I got a dull ache in my testicles reading this post , It all looks loverly
    see now that actually evoked a sharp stabbing pain.
    I have to leave now , I feel my manhood slipping

  19. danator: like i said, i'd be more than happy.
    realdoc: thanks! im taking a lot of my designs from a book of celtic art i have. do people in Ireland take that old art seriously or is it just part of the background? cuz if it was me, i'd be glued to it. its fascinating and beautiful stuff.
    beast: and you from a culture where the major consumers of fine thread goods were male!!!! please, darling. those long stockings y'all used to wear? made by men. yup. english men wove, sewed, crocheted, knitted, all that, and you still kicked the nazis teeth in.

  20. Wow, that's great stuff. Naturally, I like Opie the best.

    Happy Thanksgiving! Move over, I'm hungry.

  21. those are coool... you should do me!! (well, it's Daniel Peacock's painting, technically), but yes, do me!

    Me !Me !Me !Me !

    Happy Thanksgiving!

  22. Anonymous9:20 AM

    My favourite celtic art are the half-worn away squiggley things on old gravestones.
    Not sure if my fellow country men still appreciate their cultural heritage, most of them seem obsessed with making money at the moment.

  23. dougie: well howdy! and thank you. happy turkey day! the best holiday of them all, or at least the most honest; thanksgiving=fooooood!
    trees: dude, i was just thinking about you, dayum! and i would be happy to do you; that'd be easy. i love that hat-cat. do you want it, really???
    realdoc: very cool;i have some reconstructions of those designs. of course money is cool too; that way folks won't be tempted to sell their heritage to Bill Gates or some asshole.

  24. The Spider, butterfly and both trees are all my favorites! Your work is gorgeous.
    Happy Thanksgiving to you and your folk, FN!

  25. backtracking a bit here - the embroidery is gorgeous! I used to do a little bit with kits and stuff when i was a kid, but my mother got into it a lot in the 70s, so at least i felt i know the stich terms. so cool! i love the dogs - especially opie. who doesn't want to remember dogfarts forever? awesome. :)

  26. i dunno how you did all that embroidery and didn't make a single rude thing except for a dog fart. awesome.

  27. Anonymous7:29 PM

    fn: You gots the gift. Nicely done.

  28. Wow very nice and inpireing stuff.
    I like beading and sewing with that.Very colorful and cheerful.
    Crosshatching I've always wanted to learn but never have someone show me.
    I have to be shown can't learn from a book.