Work In Progress: January 2022

For  my 2022 cross-stitch project, I’ve decided to do a fractal.  This is the one I chose. It’s more colorful than the photo, but you get the idea. Lots of interesting blending, precise geometry. It will keep me busy for the full year, I suspect.








I always enjoy setting up a new project. This is the needleholder for this one, with the color codes copied from the chart book and inserted into the holder (two holders taped together). There are 60 colors–turned out that I had almost 2/3 of them in my stash, plus the fabric.







And here it is, on 18 count ivory Aida (13″ x 13″), in the hoop. I’ve gridded the fabric in pencil and am using a lap stand. I start these complicated projects in the upper left corner, so I can tell where I’m going. The work doesn’t go quickly, so I’m looking forward to 100s of challenging evening hours with this one. If you want to see the project I just finished, look here.

Winter at Meadow Knoll. Not yet, not really. December’s warm spell broke records (hello, climate change). We’re in the 20s this weekend–coldest of the winter, so far.

Everybody’s on edge, though, after the February 2021 electrical grid failure that shut down the state for nearly a week and killed 240-some people. The politicians (yes, this is a political problem) have done little to tackle the root causes of the grid failure, so we’re all waiting for it to happen again. In the meantime, Bill and I are glad for the mild temperatures and enjoying the winter birds that flock to the backyard feeders. Yesterday, we counted eight bright red male cardinals among a host of less vivid birds. (We’ve stopped counting the squirrels and just try to ignore them.)

On the writing desk. I’ve finished the bulk of the research for the O’Keeffe/Chabot project–a novel about the friendship of Georgia O’Keeffe and Maria Chabot, set in New Mexico during the 1940s, a period that produced profound changes in the lives of both women. I have about 40% of the first draft completed–not a big book, but challenging in a big way. I’m writing about the real lives of real people, and I want to be true–and fair–to both of them while I keep the story dramatically interesting enough to engage you, its readers. O’Keeffe mythologized herself (via costumes, staged photos, and a memoir) to an extent that obscures the real person. It’s not easy to de-mythologize and humanize a woman who managed her image so deliberately and effectively. And while I’m focusing on the 1940s, the Juan Hamilton episode that dominated her last decade for better and worse is a reality I need to deal with. I know what it is, more or less–just haven’t figured out how (or whether) to include it. I can’t tell you when the book will be finished, either. Hoping you’ll have it in mid-2023, but I can’t promise.

In the meantime, the Dahlias latest adventure is coming in early June: The Darling Dahlias and the Red Hot Poker. It’s available for presale here and elsewhere. I’ll get the web page up on this site in the next week or so.

Covid stuff. The case numbers in our rural county are going through the roof and hospitalizations have more than doubled in the past 2 weeks. Bill and I are vaxxed and masked and careful and hope that you take all these precautions too, as much as you can. I had already retired from book promotion before this thing hit, and I feel fortunate to be able to stay home. I think with sympathy about the difficult choices people have to make now–especially the parents of school-aged children. I know we’re all hoping that the worst is over, but I have the feeling that we’ll be living with this thing–in one form or another–for decades. It will take all the courage we can muster. Be brave.

Reading note. Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I’ll try again tomorrow.Mary Anne Radmacher

34 comments on “Work In Progress: January 2022

  1. I’m so glad to hear you’re vaxxed and boosted and doing well. I was checking in to see if there was a new Dahlias in the pipeline and there is! AND your new x-stitch is wonderful! MY eyes just couldn’t do it. I stick to quilting. Sending good wishes to you both!

  2. This post makes my heart happy, if for no other reason I love your writing. The current cross-stitch fractal project is truly mesmerizing. I couldn’t quit staring at it. I managed a few stitchery projects when my mom was living with me years ago and loved both the projects and working with my mother. You already know I’m cheering you on with your current writing project and in the meantime will add the Darling Dahlias to our kindle when it’s available. Love the Radmacher quote – it speaks to where I am these days. Thanks for it all.

  3. On the COVID note, I listened to the Darling Dahlias books during the Spring and Summer. The hard times and uncertainty of the depression resonated with me. I drew strength and comfort from the friendships of the women and how they handled the circumstances of their lives. I’m looking forward to the next book.

  4. I love your China Bayles series and have listened to all of them during my work day. I love the voices that bring your characters to life. Looking forward to more China Bayles novels.

  5. I like that, Barb: our inner engineer. I think there’s something inherently compelling about these fractal images. Lots to learn here.

  6. Yes: accurate with each stitch, no fudging. And the chart is initially challenging. It’ll take some time to figure it out!

  7. Only 50% vaxxed in our county, Nancy. It’s a tragedy when people put their individual preferences ahead of public health. Too many lives have been lost because of this selfishness.

  8. Thank you, Teddye. It was hard to work that out–I was delighted to find so many intriguing historical threads online, enough to create at least part of Elizabeth Blackwell’s story. But it still has too many holes!

  9. I don’t think they were happy together–and I do think they were mutually using/exploiting each other. “Need” has many faces.

  10. Yes, so mesmerizing. And working with the x-stitch pattern is quite a challenge: seeing the patterns among all the x-stitch floss symbols and watching them emerge on the fabric.

  11. Both/and, Patricia, not either/or. While my brain is dealing with the patterns, my hands are executing them–and I’m usually listening to a book or music. If a book, the novel is there, in the background and occasionally surfaces into a note. I loved spinning–for me, better with a spindle than the wheel. (Don’t do it now; not time for both spinnng/knitting and x-stitch.)

  12. There’s probably software out there for this, Penny! Life is full of amazing surprises, isn’t it?

  13. Fractals are fascinating. Not sure if you know this but they were discovered in the 1920s by a French mathematician but did not gain popularity until the 1980s when mathematician Benoit Mandelbrot was able to show them graphically, using IBMs powerful computers. Fractal patterns abound in nature and even show up in our cell phones.

  14. Your gallery is like a walk through a museum. I like your fractal. I bet you could do an original picture of your own.

  15. Does needlework, especially a complex project like this, engage your whole brain or does your current novel in progress roll around while your hands are busy? Some things, like spinning fleece into yarn, are meditative.

  16. Aren’t fractals mesmerizing? Something far beyond my consciousness is drawn into the spiraling patterns. I seem to hear the Dr. Who theme music as I look at the intricacies. Well maybe that’s because PBS has just had a Dr. Who marathon! Thanks for the link to the other cross stitch pieces you have completed. You have been a very busy girl!!! Must say I like all of the ones you have done to date! Thanks for making time for your very special writing as well!

  17. Susan, I think this may be the most beautiful of all that you’ve done! Thank you for posting it and have a wonderful year of stitching.

  18. Your needlework will be extraordinary! I don’t know if I could take something that intricate. I’m more of the homespun sampler cross stitch type of person! Looking forward to the O’Keefe book. I always wondered about the Juan Hamilton episode in her life. Was he using her or was it the other way around? Or were they just happy together? I could never figure it out when I was younger.

  19. I wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed Hemlock. The novel within the novel kept me turning the pages. Gave a copy to a dear friend for Christmas . Anxiously awaiting the O’Keefe book .

  20. I started reading your books after you commented in a needlework forum. I thought how do I know that name? what a happy find! Good luck with your your writing and your needlework..

  21. The complexity of your needlework reminds me a little of the knitting patterns of Kaffe Fassett — many many colors/shades, and complex designs. Even with sunlight and a magnifying glass I cant handle projects like that any more! But knitting continues to give me pleasure.

  22. WOW!! I am totally impressed! I’m really into counted cross stitch, but have never done anything of this magnitude. I have done wedding and birth announcements, and Christmas ornaments, plus a few things just for me.

  23. Thank you for showing us your latest project. Arthritis keeps me from doing needlepoint now, but I can still knit. I am designing clothes for Barbie dolls. Small is good.

  24. Thank you so much for your newsy, frank and thoughtful posts. I’m here in Texas as well, albeit in a large urban area, but your COVID remarks echo my own sentiments and practices. It is challenging (and sobering) to see daily how the many ways in which we have learned all our lives to handle being in the world no longer apply to this new world we are now navigating. Looking forward to the soothing balm of your next post, pics and stories!

  25. You inspire us to read, to write, to craft. Getting out my cross stitch today, Susan! The O’Keefe needlework is so vibrant, although that new project you are starting seems daunting to me. You really have to be accurate with each stitch, don’t you? That’s why I like to do more abstract work. If I fudge a few stitches, none are the wiser. Excited for the books too. Your notes to us always make a day brighter. Stay warm and safe.

  26. Thank you for this, again, just what I needed to find some grounding in my Sunday morning. I’m very intrigued by your O’Keefe/Chabot project, will look forward to hearing more. Sending warm wishes to you and yours.

  27. WOW! I’m really impressed. I’m a long time cross stitcher, but like the geometric and realistic. Must be the engineer in me. Enjoy.

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