Work In Progress: March 2021

The current cross stitch project (“Canal Home,” by Artecy in Aida 18 ct, 72 colors) is going to take a while. It’s larger and more challenging, with a lot of what cross stitchers call “confetti”–many different colors in a 10×10 square of fabric.

But what is life but a whole series of confetti challenges? Managing lots of picky little details in a short time or (in these Covid-days) in a confined space shared with the family. As you can see from the photo, I’m doing a couple of things to make the work easier. I’ve marked out the 10×10 grid (in hard-lead pencil, since the project is large and pencil takes less time than my usual red thread). I’ve also penciled the grid numbers onto strips of masking tape and taped the strips directly onto the fabric–better, I’ve found, than marking the grid numbers on the fabric. The tape is movable and any residue on the fabric is covered by the all-over stitching.

I’m a “cross-country” stitcher: I work in one color at a time, across several squares (rather than trying to manage all the colors at the same time in a single square). It’s a color-focused way of connecting dots: forget that you’re trying to create an image and work dot-by-dot. The image will emerge, given time.

I use a needle holder to keep all the threads handy. (This is two holders, taped together because my table space is limited.) Looks messy, I know. But all the thread olors are where I can get at them when I want them. I keep the project thread stash in a separate box, organized by the DMC numbers.








And in the end, when all the dots are connected and all the stitches crossed, the project will look like this. Trust me–or rather, trust the chart-maker. It will.







On the desk. Hemlock (China’s 28th adventure) just came back from the layout editor/formatter. The cover is done so we’re ready to get the printing process in the works for September 2021 publication. Half-finished: The Darling Dahlias and the Red Hot Poker, set in September 1935. It is astonishing (well, to me, anyway) how similar our current political situation is to that year, with Huey Long preaching his populist message against the backdrop of FDR’s New Deal and increasingly powerful adversaries abroad.

In the garden. It’s spring (as of yesterday at 4:37 am CT), and Meadow Knoll offers many works-in-progress. The native plums and redbuds are in bloom, there are golden daffodils and bright blue vinca, and the meadow is full of tiny anemone stars. The salvias seem to have survived the winter, but the Great February Freeze-Up may have killed our huge Lady Banks rose and the New Dawn on the deck trellis. I’m watching. And hoping. But I’m also thinking of what I’ll do to replace them, if I have to. And I’m glad to have the photos and the memories of those wonderful plants.

And that’s life, too, isn’t it? We’d love to keep all our favorites safe, but unexpected events strike out of the blue and knock our ingenious plans and fine hopes into a cocked hat. (If you’d like to know where that old metaphor might have come from, look here.)  The best we can do is pick up a new color or new plan or new hope and move ahead. With more dots.

Reading note. You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever.– Steve Jobs





28 comments on “Work In Progress: March 2021

  1. Are your next books going to be print? Are you doing indie publishing? I have just been “corresponding” if you can call a brief interchange on his blog corresponding) and he has explained that big publishing houses have cut authors’ royalties to virtually zero. He said that authors get a bit more on e-books and a bit more from indie publishing. I am interested in the dynamics of this especially as it relates to musicians who no longer get anything for their work. My husband, a musician gets one ten thousandth of a cent when one of his songs is played on Pandora. I don’t have a Kindle— only a Kobo but read your novellas on my phone.

    • Dory: Yes, my next books will be in print, both hardcover and paperback (as well as digital and audio). Yes, I am an indie author-publisher. While I was traditionall published for 25 years, I have been publishing some of my own work since 2012 and all of it since 2017.

      I haven’t heard that the big houses have cut royalties. They operate with a standard basic royalty arrangement that has not (to my knowledge) been changed. (If a book is under contract, royalties can only be changed by agreement.) For the past several years, however, many authors (even established ones) have seen their advances substantially reduced.

      It is true that authors who publish their own books (print and digital) earn a larger royalty than traditionally or hybrid published authors. However, they are not paid an advance and are responsible for the upfront cost of producing their own books, which can be considerable. There are risks and advantages to being an independent author-publisher, as well as risks and advantages to other publishing arrangements (traditional, hybrid, etc). These are always in flux as conditions change, so it’s important to stay informed.

  2. I replied earlier that you could find a replacement for you frozen rose at the Antique Rose Emporium at Independence just north of Brenham. Here in Santa Fe my self root roses from the ARE survived well with the exception of Climbing Crimson Glory. This morning while brushing way the mulching around the dead rose I discovered new growth and leaves coming up from the roots. She isn’t dead after all. I hope that you have not dug up you “dead rose” and it shows the same resistance my same root rose has shown. I will not be buying a replacement as I expected. Same root roses are much tougher than I expected. I hope you have not dug up your lost rose and it follows the same path mine did. Best regards, Janet in Santa Fe

  3. Beautiful project. The “cross country ” stitching? I was doing a series of needlepoint seashells. Made a mistake somewhere in the counting. Never finished. Too much to rip out.

  4. Looking forward to the audible release of the Voodoo Lily and delighted there is still another Dalia adventure in process.I really enjoy these books! Thank you!

    • Me too! I listen using my library’s account with Overdrive, so I hope the audio version becomes available there as well as with audible.

  5. Sad to read that your lovely antique roses may be lost. At least you live fairly close to the Antique Rose Emporium. I am concerned that some of my roses are lost to our zero temperature here in New Mexico. The Rose Emporium may be getting an order from me.

  6. If it comes to replacement, may I suggest a Peggy Martin rose? Mine wasn’t phased by the cold at all, and I’ll bet she’d be fine north of Austin. And I love her story…

  7. Thank you for providing a much needed break from all the craziness of 2020 and early 2021. This blog and of course your terrific books are just what the doctor ordered to settle jangled nerves. Your books and audio books have helped me through difficult times and added to the enjoyment of a much loved lifetime of doing fine needlework. I try recipes and plant herbs and drink Jezebel Tea all because of you! I am so happy to see of your love of doing fine counted cross stitch. And love how you have learned to make it enjoyable for you, as well as make beautiful rewarding pieces. I am keeping my fingers crossed for your roses!

  8. I haven’t done cross stitch for many years, but I am going to start again. I have been doing a lot of crocheting this past year, and I have built up quite a stash of yarns. The piece you are working on is so pretty! I look forward to seeing the finished piece.

  9. Ooooh, this is very interesting that you work in one color at a time. Game changer. Still mind-boggling but makes such good sense. 😊

  10. I always loved counted cross stitch and did some rather intricate pieces. Now, I have arthritis in my hands too bad to be able to do it any longer. 18 stitch was what I enjoyed most. Love to see the work you do. This one is gorgeous! Thanks for sharing!

  11. Such an intricate piece! A great pleasure to watch develop. Yes, rather like a mystery as the details come together. I am working on a small Danish design of an owl right now & I love seeing his form emerge on the linen.

  12. I really admire your dedication to your stitching projects. I love doing embroidery, cross stitch and crewel but have to use stamped designs. Over years I’ve searched out museum designs, Erica WIlson and Elsa WIlliams. Just cannot bring myself to all of the counting.

  13. I have worked several needlepoint pillow tops, but have given it up as have trouble threading a needle. It is easier to knit. I taught myself how to knit years ago. Have made Irish Fisherman’s pullovers for family members and others. Right now I am knitting hats to give away. One thing I like about knitting is if something doesn’t come out right I can take it apart with no problem. The yarn doesn’t care. People think there is a mystery to knitting. I tell them all you have to do is know how to knit and pcurl, add and subtract.

    • I love doing socks, Carolyn. Hats too. But knitting led to spinning, which led to a huge yarn stash–more than a lifetime’s worth, and we don’t have a lot of room here. I gave most of it away and took up cross stitch as a more manageable alternative. 🙂

  14. Rather like writing a good mystery. Many threads come together to form the full picture. Does needlework relax you or sharpen your attention to detail?

    • It does both, Patricia. Plus, it slows me down and reminds me that each stitch is a complete thing in itself, even while it is part of the emerging image I can’t yet see. I won’t know how it fits until there’s enough stitches to reveal the larger picture. As Jobs says, I can only see that looking back. Which is the difference between keeping a journal and writing a memoir, isn’t it?

  15. I so love reading your posts. I can pretend I am there with you smelling the flowers, sipping tea and doing cross stitch. Thanks for another lovely Sunday dream. Hilary

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