Sunday, May 08, 2011

Sarah Ann Wilcox Sampler WIP Week 5

Another week means another progress picture! I have really enjoyed stitching this one. It has just the right combination of ease and challenge. I also like the use of the over-dyed cotton threads that I've been using as well. (See the first update for the list of threads.) 

This is where I was at by the end of Week Five: 

I'll be doing the one-over-one stitches very last, mostly because they are tedious.

Here is a close-up of the lowest band I've completed. It has a combination of stitches, including satin and eyelet. I love how the satin stitches show off the over-dyed characteristics of the threads! I've really enjoyed seeing how that came out!

William + Kate Royal Wedding FO

I got this cute little pattern from Wee Little Stitches on Etsy. The shop has all kinds of cute little geeky cross-stitch patterns for the geeky stitcher and I LOVE them! (And I'm hoping for a Trek: TOS one day!) I've bought a few of her patterns, and they're quick little stitches that are a nice break from the more intricate ones I've been doing lately. 

This is the Royal Wedding pattern. I stitched it on evenweave I dyed with RIT purple. I was looking for something that was a nice royal hue, and what is more royal than purple? I've dyed a few pieces to date, and I really like the variety I can give myself, because it's very hard to find different colors that aren't the usual ivory and white. 

So, this is the finished product. I made a few changes, such as the hair (I miscounted stitches) and Wills has fewer buttons than the pattern. That's mainly due to the fact that I am incapable of making a demure French Knot. 

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Sarah Ann Wilcox Sampler WIP Week 4

This is actually two weeks worth of progress because I skipped a Week 3 progress picture. I also ran out of thread, like the red, brown, and olive, so I had to wait until I was able to get to the needlework shop to pick up some more.  

I was able to finish the house (except for that one window!), and the band of flowers. I actually made a mistake on that row, but it's not as visible as I thought it was. It can probably be picked up on a larger picture. 

The band two below the flowers is going to be  a mixture of eyelet and satin-stitch.

I'm not too worried about the mistakes since this is a reproduction sampler and some of it is a bit "off." It's not symmetrical, so as long as I can fix the mistake through other means, I don't see a point in pulling out my hard work! Besides, this mistake will make the sampler completely mine.

I also love how the over-dyed aspect of the thread comes out in the satin stitch. The directions call for the stitches to be one-thread thick, but because I'm using a larger size cloth (32 ct/inch v. 35 ct/inch) I feel that using two threads gives it a finer look.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

The USS Yorktown and My Family Tree

A few weeks ago, I went on a field trip with my Advanced Placement US History class to the Patriot's Point Naval and Maritime Museum, which has a pretty awesome website. If I'm not mistaken, it's playing the theme to The Pacific, which makes sense considering the USS Yorktown was in the Pacific Front during WW2. I've been watching a lot of WW2 documentaries (to the chagrin of my friends, who worry about my mental health watching all this war stuff), and seeing the Yorktown in action is pretty awesome. 

The field trip was cool, and the pictures in this post are from that trip. The students enjoyed themselves,  which is what matters. But I'm going to move on from that trip (because I don't want to violate privacy of the youngsters, they do well enough on Facebook on their own) and talk about my family tree and my first trip to the Yorktown

When I was fifteen or thereabouts, my parents took the family to Charleston. I think it was December, and it was very rainy. That is what I remember apart from the fact that my parents took us to Patriot's Point. The only thing I remember is going about the USS Clamagore, a WW2-era submarine, and being petrified of the enclosed space. 

I didn't like it. I don't like sleeping bags because my legs get tangled up, and I can't get out. I don't like submarines. I don't know how anyone on a submarine manages it, and I totally understand why they have to go through psych tests to determine if they're fit enough. That would be one test I wouldn't mind failing. 

Now, this was before the age of the internet, and my parents were intent on figuring out which submarine my great-uncle Ned Charles Cook was on when he went down in WW2. In the middle of the sub is a great room with plaques of the fallen submarines. My memory of the time thinks there was ten, but when I went a few weeks ago. I was wrong. There were at least thirty. This would explain why it took so long to find his name. I just wanted out. OUT! OUT! The sub was closing in, my brother was running around, my sister was probably trying to find a hiding place, and I couldn't breath. But no, I had to stay inside that tin can while my parents systematically looked for his name on thirty different plaques. 

And they finally found it. 

USS Barbel 
Cook, Ned C. 

I was so happy. We could leave now. I could breath sweet, fresh air, and harbor a grudge against my parents for the rest of the weekend and generally act like an ungrateful 15-year old.

Having been back on the sub, it is very much every nightmare I have in reliving my first experience. But, being an adult, I suck it up, quickly move through the ship, and ask everyone else for their photos.

As for the family tree, the internet has afforded a lot more information on Ned Charles Cook, MoMM, and the USS Barbel. I know that if my grandfather had the internet at his disposal while he was working on the family history, my grandmother would have been hard pressed to pull him away from the computer. It is a true labor of love.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Welsh Guard FO

I've gotten a lot of small cross-stich projects out of the way this spring. Some were smaller than others, but I got tired of seeing kits lying around. I don't know why, because I always have a pile of them, but since they were so simple, it was an easy jump to working on them in order to segue from knitting (a winter project) into stitching (a summer project).

This is one of them. I love the Welsh guards--who doesn't see one and doesn't want to make them crack a smile? And the amazing thing is that they don't--even when they're throwing up they still keep marching.

That's dedication that I know I don't have. If I were on the job and needed to throw up, I'm gone. I'm going home and eating toast and drinking tea.

And for those who know me well, no, that is not Dr. Who's TARDIS in the background. It's the wrong color, and there's no door. It's just the little house that they keep their keys in. (I think that's why it's there, I honestly have no idea.)

As for the frame, that's from Hobby Lobby, procured during one of their frame sales, and the matt as well.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Sarah Ann WIlcox Sampler WIP Week 2

This is my progress as of April 10, 2011. I have even more accomplished now, nearing the end of Week 3, so more pictures will be up soon. I really enjoy working on samplers--I get bored of colors really quickly, so the variegation in the hand-dyed threads as well as the variety of colors has helped with my staying on track.

The one-over-ones, though, are driving me crazy. I can tell my eyes are getting older. When a student hands me work to look at, I'm struggling a bit more than I did when I first started teaching. I used to not be picky about bad  handwriting, but now I find myself asking them to rewrite things more and more. (That's for the ones that are just being sloppy, not the ones that have true handwriting issues because of an LD.) I much prefer the two-over-two because it's also quicker to stitch.

Name Changes

I decided to change the name of my blog to "What Had Happened Was." This catchy little phrase is uttered by my students when they try to tell me a story. Usually this story is either a) an out-and-out "story" (their word for dirty lies) or b) a story with some basis in the truth and smothered in a healthy heap of exaggeration.

Usually it comes out sounding like this:
"Miiiiisssss, wha' ha' happ'n'd was...."

They tend to lengthen some words and shorten everything else. If I had made THAT the title of my blog, then all two readers of my blog would be wondering what language that was.

This title fits me a bit better. Any number of weird things happens to me and the story is best told with this beginning. It's a clue to the reader that you're going to get a big dose of exaggeration.

And I hope you like the new template. I wanted something different, and at the same time I wanted to pick a color that was easier to read (the purple was my favorite, but I found myself squinting a lot).

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Sarah Ann Wilcox Sampler WIP

My current cross-stitch project is the Sarah Ann Wilcox Sampler. The chart is available from the Charleston Museum, where the original sampler is part of a collection. I like samplers because of the variety of colors and stitches. When I get bored with one part, it is very easy to move on to another part (which you may notice!). This is not as easily done on some other projects that I've done.

This is how much I've completed in a week:

The patterns calls for the use of silks from Needlepoints silks, but it also has a DMC conversion. I had the DMC colors picked out, but I liked the idea of using something different. I chose to stick with cotton as opposed to silks because of the price point. I ended up going into my local stitch store and just browsed. I ended up using threads from three different lines because those colors matched up best with DMC.

From Crescent Colours I am using Finley Gold and Cupid. Both are hand-dyed and have variations in the colors that give a very vintage feel to the stitches. From The Gentle Arts Sampler Threads line I am using Nutmeg and Gold Leaf. The majority of my thread comes from Weeks Dye Works, and include Molasses, Caper, Charlotte's Pink, Mascara, Deep Sea, Parchment, and Juniper.

Of course, this means that my finished product will be different from the original, but I've seen pictures of the original. It's old. It's brown. It's faded. I'm not worried. :)

Faith, Love, and Gentle Words FO

I recently completed the following sampler in a record two weeks! Usually it takes me longer than that to complete a project, but I really liked the colors and the quote on this particular project. The soft palette worked really well with a piece of linen I just happened to have!

This is the finished project:

I did make some changes to it. The entire pattern called for cross-stitch, which I found to be a boring prospect. I wanted to challenge myself with some embroidery stitches, so I added them in with my own flair. I kept the colors the same, though.

In this picture, I used Queen Stitch and Satin stitch for the flowers on the side.

On the interior borders, I used (from the top down) herringbone stitch, Scotch stitch, and Montenegrin stitch. These gave another textural quality to the pattern that I felt was lacking.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Things I Learned From the Movies: Pearl Harbor

I remember when this movie first came out and I was SO EXCITED. I thought this was going to be the Pacific theater's version of Saving Private Ryan. Man, was I wrong. SPR was an Historical Epic; Pearl Harbor is a Historical Action movie.

Lesson #6: Southern Accents are not difficult to master.
From the kids at the beginning of the movie to the less-than-stellar acting of Hartnett and Affleck, the accents are horrible in this movie. Hollywood underestimates the difficulty of both the Southern American and English accents. Drew Barrymore in Everafter? Not an English accent. It was just an accent. Affleck manages to speak in the hickest, dumbest redneck accent of no particular area in the land. This goes for Scottish accents as well--as long as their unintelligible and unlike Mel Gibson's, then they must be fine. Right?

And where is Cuba Gooding, Jr.'s accent? His character was from Texas.

Lesson #7: Nothing emphasizes the tragedy of war like some slapstick comedy.
Affleck's character, Rafe, is a mess. He somehow manages to get Evelyn through a comedy of errors while getting inoculated. Their first date is also a mess, with his nose getting broken (again), and then nearly plunges the two of them into an icy ocean. This is highlighted by some of his pilot buddies using all kinds of means to get a girl, like stuttering and tears. And the sad thing? It works.

Lesson #8: Revolving doors are dangerous.
Did you see how fast that door was moving when Rafe was saying good-bye to Evelyn? I can't see how anyone could leave that building without losing a limb.

Lesson #9: Want to elevate your film to be art-house worthy? Put in subtitles!
Bonus points if it's in a non-European language. Double bonus points if it's a little known dialect. Points will be taken away if it's Affleck's southern accent.

Lesson # 10: When you are being chased by the enemy, have a video camera handy.
You'll get money for it later on--that is, if you survive.

Lesson # 11: When attempting to run from one air field to another, wait until the planes are not about to attack you.

Overall, apart from fifteen minutes at the middle which should be the heart of the movie, Pearl Harbor was a dud. Instead of focusing on the attack of Pearl Harbor, the movie veers into Titanic territory, with the tragedy sandwiched in between the love triangle of the main characters. The best part of the movie was the section of the attack. The movie would have been more powerful had they focused on the build-up to the attack from the point of view of the military alongside the Japanese preparations. Everything got lost on the focus of the love story.

It could have been so much better.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Things I Learned From the Movies: U-571

As a history student and teacher, I find movies with a historical bend to them difficult to watch. I cringe at Braveheart and hate how a totally awesome story like the Duchess of Devonshire's was made boring in The Duchess. (The reality is always better.) But over the years I have started to make a distinction between two types of historical movies: The Epic Historical and The Action Historical. The former is more serious and based more closely to reality, whereas the former may have occurred in a historical time frame as long as it was in a Parallel Universe.

Braveheart and The Duchess are Epic Historicals.

U-571 is not.

Sometimes, but not always, the cast can be the clue as to which type of movie that I am watching, but this is highly flawed. For example, Mel Gibson was in Braveheart, but he was also in Patriot, which is an Action Historical.

In the case of U-571, Matthew McConnaughy and Jon Bon Jovi are the clues. These are not actors who show up in Epic Historicals. The movie is loosely based on the Allies attaining the Enigma code machine from the Germans during WW2. With the capture of one of these machines, the Allies could break the German code and save the world from annihilation. The vast majority of the work on the Enigma decoding was done by the British at Bletchley Park. Which leads to:

Lesson #1: No one is interested in watching the Brits save the day.
To be fair, the movie came out in 2000, which was before Clive Owen and Gerard Butler came into the action movie ranks. Orlando Bloom was still cavorting about in his elf gear. That's not to say that there were no good British actors working in the States at that time. I just can't think of any. Also, everyone knows that the Americans won the war and saved the world from Hitler. (Cue eye roll.) Unfortunately, because of this attitude in Hollywood, we don't seem to really get how good the Brits were doing at holding off. Yes, things were dark, but comparatively, we had it easy. Everyone was getting bombed. We weren't.

Lesson #2: Watch how you contain the prisoner.
Just because someone doesn't speak the same language as you doesn't make that person stupid. It just makes you unable to understand them. The German U-Boat commander was a smart guy--if he weren't, he wouldn't have been commander. He wouldn't have the suitable amount of stubble, and he wouldn't have that plaid shirt under an awesome cabled sweater. He was smart enough to act like he's an electrician, so let's go with that for a moment. If he were a sub's electrician, he probably knows the sub very well. So, when handcuffing him to a part of the sub, make sure he has more than one guard. And that said guard isn't a fresh-fashed sailor.

Lesson #3: It's okay to wildly shoot a gun in a submarine.
Jon Bon Jovi did it, and nothing happened. It didn't hit anything--those bullets just disappeared. Not one pierced the hull.

Lesson #4: When pretending to be Germans in order to infiltrate a German sub, make sure more than two people speak German.
So, our boy McConnaughy goes over to the sub with two boats full of sailors. Only two can speak German. This is not a good idea. They would be discovered fast. And they were. See Lesson #3.
And what if those two people were shot? Non-German Speaking Germans are suspicious to Germans. And we're supposed to believe America won the war? No wonder the rest of the world thinks we are stupid.

Lesson #5: Diversity on a submarine is a good idea. Especially if it's cliched and stereotypical.
You have to have the guy who doesn't want to be in charge but ends up being in charge.
An Italian with a chip on his shoulder.
A gunner named Trigger.
A mechanic named Tank.
The best friend who dies.
The chief engineer who is wise and gives advice to the first guy. And is played by Harvey Keitel. The token black guy who is the cook and miraculously knows how to pilot a sub.

And thus finishes the Inaugural Post of "Lessons Learned".