The Grandma Project

Long time Bookish Dark readers may have noticed a distinct lack of crafts-talk around here. No, I haven’t seen the error of my knitterly ways and reformed (never!), but I have been learning a new skill, cross stitch, and working on a big project for most of this year. I was making a present for my mom, and since she’s a regular reader, I couldn’t talk about the project while it was in process. Which is too bad, because I’ve been dying to show it to you!

This is a portrait of my Grandma Ruth, done in 28 stitches-per-inch cross stitch. It was intended to be a Mothers’ Day present for the mother I adore: a lovingly-stitched picture of her own beloved mother. I started off by learning cross stitch on a couple of small projects, and confidently started in on the project in February. Oh, the hubris! Far from completing it in May, I was rushing to finish and frame it for Ramona’s birthday last week. We had to priority ship it to get it there on time.

My inspiration was this cross stitch portrait of Houdini; isn’t it wonderful? It turned up in my feeds on New Year’s Day this year, and I was entranced–I kept going back and looking at it, marveling at its fine detail. The idea just burned in the back of my mind; it didn’t take it long to connect up with this wonderful sepia-tone photo of Grandma, which Mom had featured on her own blog not long before:

A determination took root in my soul, and blossomed. I would stitch that picture of Grandma, for Mom. There aren’t words enough to express how dearly we love our Ruth, both of us, but I thought I picture might, as the saying goes, be worth at least a thousand attempts at it.

Ken helped me clean up the photo a bit and put it through the paces described here to turn it into a stitchable grid.

I matched the colors with DMC Floss’s online color charts; I wish I’d picked two dark browns with a little more contrast–the difference is clearer in the skein, but not so much once they’re stitched in together.

And then it was just a matter of stitching it, row by row. Cross stitch projects have a disheartening way of seeming like you aren’t making any progress at all, at first–something I experienced even with the two simple projects I practiced on:

And they were on 14 spi fabric! Working in a monochrome scale on 28 spi cloth…well, if I hadn’t been doing it for my mom, it wouldn’t have gotten done. I would have given it up before April. I’m glad I didn’t, though; I learned a lot from this project, and got very attached to it emotionally. The last week I had it, when it was finished and I just needed to trim it, frame it, and send it off, was very hard. The portrait had been my constant companion for months–even Ken commented that he’d know Grandma’s smile anywhere, having looked at the grid sitting by my chair for so long.

I started thinking I might have to do another copy of it, to keep. I probably won’t, though. Ramona likes having a one-of-a-kind art piece, and I’m going to take a break from cross stitch for a while; I need a few brightly-colored, quick-finish projects to clear my palate and ease my eyes. I’m quite sure, though, that I will do more projects like this one, and I even have my next subject in mind (no pun intended):

I’ll call it Self Portrait in Greyscale.

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6 Responses to The Grandma Project

  1. CountessZ says:

    Incredible work, my friend. You are amazing and inspiring.

  2. Ramona the Mom says:

    You already know I had to ask if this was cross stitch – the detail is so fine.
    It is amazing and so special because it is of my Mom. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
    I would not have blamed you if you had given up. I would never have such perseverance.
    It is a wonderful mother’s day/birthday gift.
    Good luck on Self Portrait in Greyscale. (Almost wrote ‘Greystoke’.)

  3. kaizerin says:

    Z–Thanks, sweetie!

    R–LOL–because of the time I was abandoned in the jungle as an infant and taken in by wild apes?

  4. Ramona the Mom says:

    Oh. You do remember that time in your life?

  5. SFLAG says:

    I’m the author of the Houdini x-stitch and wanted to pop in to say NICE WORK! Are you blind now, too? 😉

  6. kaizerin says:

    Welcome, SFLAG, I’m so pleased you stopped by! As you can see, your work has inspired me very much.

    I’m not quite blind, but I am bleery-eyed and have developed a bit of a hunch. I think I’ll do some nice, easy knitting projects for a while. Yarn is so delightfully large–I won’t have to wear two pairs of glasses to work on it!

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