Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Needlework and Exercise

I think my cross-stitched fox is up on my web site now. I know it’s been sitting on my web mistress’ desk for almost a week.

Now I’m finishing up a needlepoint hen designed to be a partner to Picasso’s famous “Rooster” (see a print of Rooster at: Actually, if you’re interested, you can buy a counted cross stitch pattern of the rooster and make your own. Maybe I can get a picture of the hen up on my web site, too. So far as I know the hen only comes in needlepoint. What’s the difference? A counted cross stitch pattern is drawn on graph paper, each square representing a single X on a piece of evenweave cloth. There are dots, squiggles, dark squares, pound signs and other symbols in the squares, representing different colors of floss used to complete the piece. Floss is usually cotton or silk. It’s called “counted” cross stitch because the stitcher counts down and across to find a square and stitches the corresponding X on the cloth in the color the symbol calls for. (I’m sorry if I’m boring people who already know this.) Here’s a web site that offers free counted cross stitch patterns – and an adorable humming bird that follows your cursor around the page!

A needlepoint pattern, on the other hand, is a piece of open-weave canvas with the pattern painted or printed on it. Hand painted canvases cost a lot, because the designer has to make something that’s both attractive and that fits exactly into the squares of the woven canvas. The stitcher then covers the painted area with wool yarn, silk or metallics. While counted cross stitch is done with Xs, needlepoint stitchers often use fancy stitches to create interesting textures. Some pieces are merely (merely, ha!) ways to show off the stitcher’s knowledge of interesting stitches. The American Needlepoint Guild offers a new stitch every month. These are often complex and difficult, but the effect is amazing. Go to to select some examples.

I went to the exercise room on our floor in our new home (Aquila Commons, a senior co-op), and tried out the “ellilptical trainer.” I had never even heard of this machine before, but I was showing a friend around the place and she fairly crooned when she saw it. “It’s terrific, it gives you a great workout,” she said. So last night I went down and climbed aboard. Wow, in about a minute my body was shouting, Stop! Stop! So I did. But it does not jar the joints at all, and I have arthritis so that’s important. It operates something like a bicycle except you stand up and you move your arms back and forth on pole-like things. Very smooth action. I rested, and tried again, but not for long. I can tell by the way it wore me out so fast that I need to go do it a couple of times a week. Maybe more often than that. My sad physical condition is what happens when you choose a career that mostly calls for you to sit at a desk and operate a keyboard all day.

The book Thai Die is moving again, thank goodness. Right now I’ve got some members of the Monday Bunch driving up a highway in a blizzard and starting to worry about making it to the next town. They'll get there, but something awful is waiting for them in St. Peter, too.


Dee Winter said...

Hello, just thought I'd tell you that Wed is a high point in this blog. I read your books, sell them at work and am a stitcher. We met 3 years ago in Minneapolis. I was a fan before, became a bigger one after meeting you. It was too bad you had to frog Thai Dye, but it'll be worth waiting for I'm sure. I read several of the others books, but yours are my favorites. Thanks for sharing some of your life with us.

Camille Minichino said...

Sorry to be really dense, but I have always wanted to know the difference between the two kinds of needlework. One more clarification: is this correct ... on the counted version, the graph is not on fabric, and you do NOT stitch on it, but instead "transfer" the pattern to the cloth.


Monica Ferris said...

Hi, Dee! I think I remember you, didn't we travel together to Des Moines or some other place in Iowa for a CATS (Creative Arts and Textiles Show)?

I Love the term "frog" applied to Thai Die -- it is exactly apt!

Camille, yes, counted cross stitch patterns come on paper and you have to translate it onto fabric. There are some very beautiful and complex patterns done in counted cross stitch.

Dee Winter said...

I was at the EGA National Seminar in Minneapolis where you were the dinner speaker. And you told me who dies in the next book, I was so happy. If there was a man who deserved it, he did.