Since I’ve spent the last few weeks making several Shawshank Samplers and not much else, I figured I’d take a bit of a break and show off my tools.

I’m using a white evenweave 28-count fabric similar to this. I almost always choose it over Aida because I think fabric choice makes all the difference between “art in a fiber medium” and “kitschy craft project.”

I keep a small box of DMC embroidery floss selected from my larger stash, wound on paper bobbins and clearly marked with their numbers. I’m a little obsessive about it, but since I learned hand-stitching in junior high, I’ve had plenty of instances of half-finished projects that are doomed by unidentifiable thread colors.

I keep my favorite vintage teacup nearby to catch my threads, which has been a big help in keeping my living room neat – and is a great use for a piece of kitchenware you’re not 100% sure is food-safe.

I have my Gingher embroidery scissors and a pair of pinking shears for neat fabric edges. I have a bit of Velcro for stripping the embroidery floss (which, honestly, I do consistently when I’m embroidering and not-so-much when I’m working on samplers and cross-stitch).

For my own comfort, I have a compression glove for when my hands get tired and I’m working under a deadline, and my favorite non-greasy hand lotion.

And my favorite tool is my newest acquisition: my lap embroidery frame. Rather than holding an embroidery hoop with one hand and moving your stitching hand above and below the fabric, this frame sits under your leg and holds the fabric for you, so you can actively use both hands. I find it easiest to use my dominant hand under the fabric because it’s easier to find the right spot on the fabric without looking at it. Given how affordable this darn thing is, I can’t believe it’s taken so long for me to get one. It’s drastically changed how quickly and comfortably I can get work done.



Snowed In!

Well, The Storm has us hunkering down and cuddling up. Governor Patrick declared a snow emergency for the state and ordered everyone off the roads at 4pm, which is a great idea because the roads were almost impassable by 2:30. Here at the Humanist House, we still have power and heat, but no intentions of heading anywhere for at least the next twelve hours. I’m working on another Shawshank sampler and my Owlie socks – but only after frogging them back to the middle of the cuff and nearly starting again. I decided I didn’t like such a tall cuff and discovered a bit of a problem with the heel turn that I wanted to think about a little further.

One week from today, I’ll be back at Boston Conservatory as head of wardrobe for the Winter Dance Concert, and I’m hoping to have my current projects finished up by then so I can think a little more about a few machine sewing projects I have on the horizon.

In the meantime, I’d like to share this website with you: Toward The Stars features fantastic gender-neutral and stereotype-breaking toys and clothing for girls, all of which encourage education, independence and confidence. I really enjoyed looking throughout their catalogue and I’m definitely looking forward to purchasing some of these onesies one day.

Photo from Toward The Stars

Shawshank Sampler

Today I’ll be mailing out my third Shwashank Sampler. I’ve always loved the movie, and in 2007, I had the opportunity to tour Ohio State Reformatory, where the movie was filmed. The prison itself is beautiful, both for its original castle-like design and in the haunting, desolate feeling that abandoned buildings and shipwrecks develop over time. For OSR, that feeling began before inmates even left the premises, because all maintenance was halted on the building ten years before the prison actually closed. One can only imagine the effect that kind of negligence had on the living conditions and morale of the inmates. One of the individuals on my tour was, in fact, a former inmate, and it was very clear that his time in OSR had a lasting effect on him – and not in the positive, rehabilitating way the prison was originally built for. We toured the cell blocks, saw the sixth tier where the “ladies” were housed (tourist: “Oh, there were women in this prison, too?” Guide: “No.”), the bullpen, the showers, the Hole, Warden Norton’s office, and the exercise yard. Because of safety concerns, we were not allowed into the room that was used for Andy’s library, but we did get to see a few movie props that were left behind: The false sewage pipe Andy used to escape, some wooden “bars” placed over windows that didn’t originally have them, and the still-broken window to the Warden’s office that Hadley broke when Andy locked himself in with the record player. The trip was really pretty incredible, and I’d definitely recommend the stop to anyone in the area. For the REALLY devoted fans, there’s even the Shawshank Trail, a driving tour of fourteen sites used in the movie.

Ever since I’d first seen the movie in college, I wanted to remake the prophetic sampler that hides the safe in the Warden’s office. I’d looked for patterns everywhere to no avail, but after taking the tour, I finally decided to make my own. I took a couple of screencaps of the movie, broke out my old drafting and rendering supplies, and went to work on the pattern. The first one I made hung in my house for a while, before I decided to let it find a new home. So far, it’s been my most popular Etsy item, which I chalk up to the lasting effect of this amazing film.